A review of Sacred Planet, by Austin Rogers, Book 1 of the Dominion Series. 4.5/5 ★s.
The word “Firefly” appears in a dozen Amazon reviews for Sacred Planet by Austin Rogers. That’s because from a debut science fiction author whose very book blurb reads, “Fans of Firefly will feel at home in the world of Dominion,” the comparison to Joss Whedon’s Western space romp is no accident; it’s the result of a Firefly fan capitalizing on the love of the series combined with knowing exactly how to channel Whedonesque characters without flaw. Hey, they say to write what you know.
Successive pulses rain down on Sierra Falco’s space yacht, each one a blow to the fragile balance of the galaxy itself. When the Carinian prime minister’s daughter’s ship is destroyed by a shadowy enemy, the political peace ties between superpowers are destabilized. Enter Captain Davin of the Fossa, a smuggler who’s about to cash in by selling the rescued Prima Figlia to the highest bidder — her father, right? Because Davin’s not a bad guy, but he has a thieving crew to feed. Off in Sagittarian space, a futuristic warrior accomplishes his greatest ambition, defeating all other competitors to become the emperor’s champion, only to make a sacrifice in exchange that he will never be able to live with. Kastor is my favorite character. Forced by his ambition to make a devastating choice, he grapples with the same problem over and over, failing to really recover and ever get what he wants when it conflicts with his orders. Poor guy.
The first scene of Sacred Planet reads like a script for an episode of Firefly, or to be more specific, the script to the second scene of the pilot, where Captain Mal Reynolds comes across some serious booty on an abandoned shuttle. Meet Captain Davin, who on page one gazed upon the beautiful sight of a massive heap of scrap metal prime for the picking. Sydney Strange is basically Zoe but a lesbian and the pilot, and Jai is basically Wash but not a pilot, and Jabron is basically Jane. Really. Everything from joking about the frozen bodies floating through their treasure trove to getting excited about the mysterious contents of a “preserve bag” from the wreckage is irreverent and edgy enough to be fan fiction, if not for the bigger picture — a huge worldbuilding scope and a larger cast well beyond the crew of the Serentity — I mean the Fossa.
The princess Davin rescues from the preserve bag, Sierra Falco, promises to be worth a whole lot more than her weight in gold, because she’s a pawn in the political justification of an interplanetary war, hence the attempt to assassinate her, destroying her space yacht. Davin’s devotion to cold hard cash struggles against his morality, and I gotta hand it to the author, that fight was not over easy and, sorry for the vague half spoiler, doesn’t really end well for anybody. It’s not the happiest of endings.
Much more interesting to me, however, was the unparalleled and incomparable Sagittarian warrior Kastor, who immediately after becoming the emperor’s champion becomes an unexpected victim of personal tragedy that I just couldn’t get over. So many tears.