Peacekeeper

by Laura E. Reeve

Cover image

Series: Major Ariane Kedros #1
Publisher: Roc
Copyright: December 2008
ISBN: 0-451-46245-9
Format: Mass market
Pages: 324

Buy at Powell's Books

Ariane Kedros is a pilot of a second-wave prospecting ship. Second-wave prospectors are the first explorers into new systems after slower-than-light generation ships haul in the beacons that add them to the FTL network. She's also a reserve major in the Consortium military, which is a point of ongoing tension with her business partner and employer. She disappears on missions for the intelligence branch that she can't talk about, and usually ends up drinking herself into a stupor when she returns.

In actuality, Kedros is not her real name. It's a fake identity given her after the last war, a war in which humans detonated a temporal distortion warhead for the first time and possibly destroyed an entire solar system. Kedros was part of the team that launched the bomb and is, according to the Terran Expansion League (the other side of the all-human conflict), a war criminal. She's in the equivalent of a witness protection program, as are all the other people involved in the act. But someone has broken their cover and is picking them off, one by one, and her latest secret mission from the Consortium is to protect another member of the group.

Peacekeeper is Reeve's first novel, and unfortunately this shows badly at the start of the book. The writing is choppy and awkward, the paragraph breaks are a bit off, and the sentence structure kept making my teeth itch. I'm not a good enough technical critic to put a finger on what's wrong, but the writing doesn't flow. I also found myself anticipating and completing sentences in my head, which is a sign of too many low-level cliches. A few dozen pages into the book, the writing was bothering me, I hadn't warmed to any of the characters, and I wasn't sure I was going to like it.

Ariane grew on me, though, particularly once she got into her mission and started balancing a cover assignment and her actual work. She's hurt, suffering from what's probably post-traumatic stress disorder and self-medicating with alcohol, but she's smart and competent and the plot is sufficiently tricky to provide a lot of meat. Not only is someone after her old team, but she and her partner discovered something potentially major on their last trip, an old friend of her partner has been murdered, the Consortium and the Terrans are negotiating a peace treaty, and all this is happening under the watchful eye of a superior alien race.

The Minoans are probably Reeve's best creation here (if a little too similar to Vorlons at times). They're absolutely neutral, but they do not want humanity messing with temporal distortion weapons and are trying to nudge (or push) the humans into peace and disarmament. They are sticklers for not imposing their cultural practices on others, attempting to judge humanity solely by its own rules, but they're utterly literal-minded about rules. They expect everyone to follow any stated rules exactly and to the letter, making them excellent but frustrating overseers of disarmament treaties. They also have a fascinating tendency to interact with people in roles rather than as individuals.

This is clearly the first book in an ongoing series, and a lot of the setup is not resolved here. We get only glimpses of what Ariane and her partner may have found, and only a few interactions with the Minoans, while Ariane tracks down who is responsible for killing her former team. There's a bit too much torture for my taste, and the subplot of Ariane's struggle with alcoholism wasn't really what I wanted to read about, but the writing seemed to get substantially better and the plot kept me turning the pages.

There's a quality to military SF written by people who have actually been in the military that I find hard to describe but that helps a book tremendously. It didn't surprise me at all to learn that Reeve served in the US Air Force, since Peacekeeper has that quality. It's less about technical accuracy and more about a feel, a sense of what it's like to be inside a military routine and interacting with other military personnel. The culture feels coherent, despite not being described in detail. I think it makes for good SF in general, since it conveys to someone like me (who has never been in the military) a semi-alien but completely coherent culture. It certainly improves this book; in general, I thought Reeve's military characters were more interesting and more believable than her non-military characters.

With the rocky beginning, the unpolished writing, and a villain who wasn't entirely satisfactory, I can't quite recommend Peacekeeper, but it's not a bad read. I'm not sure if I'll pick up the sequels, but I did leave it curious about the unresolved plot threads and willing to learn more about Reeve's world.

Followed by Vigilante.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2012-12-07

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