Review of Chains of Dawn
In Chains of Dawn, Captain Ethan Walker and the rest of the crew of the Olympus Dawn seem to be catching a break. After discovering an entire missing colony in Echoes of Starlight and fighting off a pirate in Dust of the Deep, Walker is happy to have a simple delivery of passengers and cargo to a science station orbiting over a super earth with its own near-human native population. But what should be a simple milk run, and maybe even a bit of R&R on the planet to observe the natives, quickly turns into a desperate life and death situation for Walker and the crew. While Walker, Rene, Angel, and Nuko are stranded on the planet, Kaycee, Ammo, and Quinn must make some hard decisions that will either save the day, or get them all implicated in the only crime that could see them swinging at the end of a rope.
As I mentioned in my review of Echoes of Starlight, this book could have been subtitled: Captain Walker and (Another) Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. In fact, I am starting to think that if given the opportunity to sign onto the crew of the Olympus Dawn I’d have to walk away, very, very fast (in the same way that one shouldn’t walk into a New England town where an elderly mystery writer lives or a quiet county in England called Midsomer, unless you want to become the next murder victim). Captain Walked seems to be having a string of bad luck wherever he goes, and I am really starting to feel sorry for the man. But honestly, this makes for fantastic reading. Craig doesn’t hold back on the action or the drama. And this time, it’s not just Walker who is forced into making the tough decisions. In fact, a lot of the time Walker is basically along for the ride as a lot of the drama is happening in space where Kaycee, Ammo, and Quinn are faced with the hard choices. I really enjoyed that the storyline opened up in this book (books 1 and 2 primarily focused on Walker and his decisions and actions) and allowed us to see events from different character perspectives. We are given a good look at how these characters interact and react to a very tough situation.
Another thing that I liked about Chains of Dawn was the setting. A lot of the action takes place on the planet Dawn. Dawn is a super earth, with twice our normal gravity, and Craig does a wonderful job of making the setting just as much an antagonist as any of the characters. I loved the fact that such a world was included at all. If you are a fan of sci-fi television shows (like me) try to think of an episode of Star Trek (OS or NG or DS9 or Voyager or Enterprise), Farscape, Stargate SG-1, or Firefly where the crew went to a world that WASN’T at normal Earth gravity. (I’ll wait.) I can’t think of one. (Doesn’t mean there’s not, but if such episodes happened, they were few and forgettable.) To survive on the planet the crew must wear a Pressure Support Exosuit (PSE) or be slowly crushed under the higher gravity. Not only does this add a dose of realism to the story (of all of the exoplanets found so far many are super earths with a much higher gravity) it also adds in wonderful opportunities for drama and tension.
My one quibble is that the ending felt a bit Start Trek: NG (not that that is necessarily a bad thing), in the sense that the conclusion and resolution sort of just happened in the last minute of the episode after all of the drama and seemed to come from left field. It wasn’t a bad ending; in fact, I liked the resolution and the set up for future books. It just felt rushed to me and I would have preferred a bit more from the characters that would have pointed (a little) at the ending.
Chains of Dawn is a fast-paced sci-fi adventure that ratchets up the tension and drama for Captain Walker and the rest of the crew of the Olympus Dawn. If you love sci-fi, especially in the vein of Star Trek and Firefly, then I highly recommend Chains of Dawn.