Steal the Stars by Mac Rogers, Nat Cassidy

35293339Publication Date: 7 November 2017
Publisher: Tor Books
Format: eBook
Pages: 416
ASIN: B0711QDMD6
Summary:
Dakota “Dak” Prentiss guards the biggest secret in the world.

They call it “Moss.” It’s your standard grey alien from innumerable abduction stories. It still sits at the controls of the spaceship it crash-landed eleven years ago. A secret military base was built around the crash site to study both Moss and the dangerous technology it brought to Earth.

The day Matt Salem joins her security team, Dak’s whole world changes.

It’s love at first sight—which is a problem, since they both signed ironclad contracts vowing not to fraternize with other military personnel. If they run, they’ll be hunted for what they know. Dak and Matt have only way to be together: do the impossible. Steal Moss and sell the secret of its existence.

And they can’t afford a single mistake.

*****

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an open and honest review 

Review:
That ending….wow… I can’t actually decide if I liked the last chapter, but the rest of this book was phenomenal.

Steal the Stars is the novelization of a podcast of the same name from Tor Labs. To clarify, I have not listened to the podcast, but after reading the book, it’s certainly being added to my podcast list. I can’t say how close the book is to the podcast in terms of plot and narration, but by from the rather atypical narration style and pacing, I’m going to guess it’s pretty close.

This book is about the lives of Dak Prentiss, chief security guard of Quill Marine, and Matt Salem, a recent hire. Quill Marine, which disguises itself as an innocent marine research base, is actually one of many top-secret research laboratories owned by the Sierra Corporation; Sierra being a vague yet menacing corporate entity that may or may not secretly run the US Government. The overall mood of this book is rather morose and pessimistic and feels like a painfully accurate reflection of today’s political climate. However, unlike many science fiction stories, the spotlight of this book is not on Sierra and the happenings in Quill Marine, but on Dak and Matt themselves. This story follows their lives, their emotions, and their relationship as they live in a science fiction backdrop.

Dak and Matt are not your normal protagonists. Dak is portrayed as a solitary and aggressive person who does what she needs to, regardless of consequences. In the first chapter, we see her getting into bar fights. She uses (and occasionally abuses) her authority, manipulates her connections, and flat-out lies her way out of situations. Matt we only see through Dak’s perspective. While he’s portrayed as the perfect man, given his job description and previous career choices, there’s likely more than one skeleton in his closet. Together, they make an interesting duo of very flawed people existing in a very flawed world.

The narration is done in an interesting combination of first- and second-person. Dak is narrating the story, but while doing so, she’s often addressing Matt, using ‘you’. It’s a very intimate way of story-telling and given how emotional this can book get, a very successful one too.

The pacing is also VERY slow, perhaps the slowest I’ve read in terms of plot. The events in the summary don’t actually happen until more than half-way through. However, because the focus of the first half is on the development of Dak and Matt’s relationship, I never found the slowness frustrating. It also helps that as their relationship develops, the world does too. We’re slowly introduced to all the interesting technology and aliencraft inside Quill Marine, as well as a very accurate depiction of scientists floundering while trying to decrypt alien tech and xenobiology. The pacing does pick up significantly in the last third, and by the end, the action comes at a rapid-fire pace.

My one problem with this book was the ending. While I don’t want to give too much away, I thought the final chapter largely destroyed the set up of the rest of the book. To me, the second-to-last chapter would have made a fantastic ending that would take the story on a path not often tread for endings. This is not to say I didn’t find the revelations in the last chapter interesting, but just that I didn’t think they fit with the rest of the story.

Overall, I rate this book a 4.5/5. It would have been a 5 without the last chapter. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a very character driven science fiction novel.

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