Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

I finished Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding a couple of days ago. These are my thoughts. 

Retribution Falls is about a crew of sort of ragtag, not very talented, very unlucky, space pirates. They’re led by Darian Frey, the owner and captain of the Ketty Jay. They seem to end up in trouble a lot and never getting the big score. They’re asked by an old friend of Frey’s to rob a spaceship and take a huge chest of ducates. They hire a new navigator, Jez, go off, find the Ace of Skulls (the spaceship) and accidentally blow it up, and then become the most hated and most wanted crew in the galaxy.

I liked it. It was a fun romp of intergalactic piracy.

So the crew:
The crew consists of this band of misfits with their own issues that they use to contribute to an atmosphere of failure and worry.

Lets start with the main man:
Darian Frey used to be in the military, sort of, during a fuel war. He basically worked transport and flew munitions and other supplies around the galaxy. He did it solely to get money to pay off his ship. He’s interesting in the sense that he’s pretty unlikeable for a lot of the book. The most important thing to him is his ship. He doesn’t really care too much about his crew, he refuses to give up the ignition key to save one of his crew members, and seems to have no compunction about leaving men behind. He also shoves all responsibility over on other people. When they blow up the Ace of Skulls he takes no responsibility. His crew, and others, tell him that while he didn’t know it would happen he still killed a bunch of people. He gets furious and says that he was set up, so technically they killed all those people. And while it might be true that it isn’t all his fault he still killed a whole spaceship of people. And it should bother him. He runs from his problems. We learn later in the book that when he felt too much pressure from a significant other he just got angry with her and ran, instead of talking to her. He uses people for what he needs and gives little thought to what happens afterwards. And he still seems to think that he’s a pretty OK guy. Not great, he knows he’s a pirate, but he seems to think a lot of what he does is justified and not really his fault. It’s absolutely infuriating, but he does grow a lot during the book, and a lot of his backstory reveals that he might not be just the whiny little shit he comes across as.

The other most important character is probably Jez. She’s the newly hired navigator on the ship and she has some sort of dark secret that is alluded to during the whole book. She is probably the most moral and forthright of the crew. Although she seems to sort of run away from anything that might hurt her, or trouble her, she is loyal to Frey and the crew and she’s a skilled navigator and does her job well. She’s also the only woman on the crew.

The ship has two sort of outfliers. Two smaller craft that are pretty much just guns to scare and destroy the other ships they run into. They are small, compact, and made for combat, like an x-wing or something. They’re operated by two guys who are both very similar and very different. Harkins is pretty much a ball of anxiety passing as a human being. He is terrified of piracy, terrified of other people, terrified of war, terrified of the ship cat, and pretty much everything else. He has no faith in himself and whenever he offers a suggestion for what to do he always puts a bunch of qualifiers on it, in care it’s stupid. He only feels good and confident when he’s flying, because he’s actually good at it. It’s a mystery he’s still alive. The other is Pinn, a dimwitted, but wildly talented pilot, which is what makes him similar to Harkins. He is pretty sure he is the best in the world, never shuts up and was actually angry the war ended because he wanted to kill people. He has a picture of his girlfriend from back home in his craft, a girlfriend everyone else knows he’ll never go back to, he just enjoys the idea of coming back to her rich and successful.

Malvery is the crew doctor. He’s huge and fun, and intelligent. He’s used as muscle and seems to be one of the people Frey trusts a bit more than the others, if he can be kept away from Pinn. He was a big shot, rich surgeon, but he fucked up and now lives on the ship away from the riches he’s used to.

The last official crew member is Silo, the engineer. He doesn’t really say much, but he and Frey seem to have a bond of loyalty and friendship that goes way back, but which they never really talk about.

The last man on board is Crake, a former socialite and rich kid, who decided to become a daemonist. I’m not entirely clear on what they do, but they seem to use science to enchant objects, to use them in their favor. He has a gold tooth he can use to play mind tricks on people. Usually people who aren’t too intelligent or defiant, think Jedi mind tricks. They work on Storm troopers, but not on Darth Vader. He has this dark thing in his past, and paid for his way on the Ketty Jay with money, so Frey would take him away. So he’s not officially a crew member. I thought he was the most interesting, but he was also annoying in his way. When Frey refuses to give up the ignition key to save him he is actually surprised and disappointed, like; you’ve been around this guy for a while, do you know nothing Crake?

The plot and writing:
The writing was fabulous. It was swashbuckle-y and funny, and fun. It was clever, and he was good at writing different voices and personalities. I really liked the flashback style. We get to read the routes that the different people take to get where they are and to turn into the people they are, which I like as a storytelling device. I like that way of building worlds and characters, so I found that fun.

I liked that even though Frey is a very unlikeable person from my perspective I was never confused as to how he got all these people to like him. He’s unlikeable and annoying to me, but I can see that he’s very charming and affable to other people, so I liked that. It made sense that people liked him, because he seems to have this sort of nature that people just like.

This is going to sound a bit odd. I liked Jez’s place in the story, because while there are references to romantic love and sexual relationships and while it might have been easy to make her an object of desire to create more tension in the book Chris Wooding doesn’t do that. She’s a woman, and she’s smart, and she’s truly capable, and she is part of the crew, and the others pretty much consistently see her like that. They see her as a part of their crew, and just part of their group. She’s not seen as disruptive, and not really an object of sexual desire, which I like. And it was done so naturally, I guess. It would have looked very unnatural and weird if that had been sort of foisted on her. So I liked that. I like odd things.

I liked the whole thing. It was fun, it was exciting, it was sort of heart-in-the-throat exciting, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.