I like the plot. It has a quick yet steady progression so that it feels neither thin nor thick. It's like pizza crust and just as tasty.
The escalation of the plot is exciting; what begins as evading a dangerous debtor moves to higher and higher stages as more of Brondi's Evil Plan unfolds. Everything is character driven. I love seeing how Ethan attempted to uphold his end of the bargain with Brondi yet the same time screw him over while Brondi planned for this behavior.
Another point in the book's favor is that there are no idiot balls. Ethan does the best he can with what he has and Brondi does likewise; considering he's one of the big whigs of Dark Space this means he has a lot to use.
There's a great deal of world building. For instance there's the backstory of the Sythian war that informs the plot but has no direct relation to it; fascinating, and better still, it doesn't bog the plot down. There's just enough detail about the ships and the nature of the society to paint a picture without a five page spread about anti-matter or some other facet of society.
The ending hits that sweet spot between 'resolving conflict' and 'leaving conflict open' that gives a reader closure for the book but at the same time makes them excited about the next book. All too often I see a writer attempt something like this only for the attempt to fall flat; it looks vain, goading, or lazy, like there's a chapter missing. That's not the case here. Instead there's a sense of 'phase 1 complete-press x for phase 2' sort of thing.
Despite how good the plot is, it is the characters that truly sell it.
Ethan is a terrific example of how to make an anti-hero without resorting to Dark and Edgy characterization. It's easy to tell that he is a good man but the Crapsack World nature of Dark Space means he has to resort to dishonest means and extreme tactics to stay alive and make ends meet. Similarly, Alara is terrific as his foil being younger and overall more cheerful than him but is still her own character. There was a moment when I thought she was going to become a Deuteragonist instead of a sidekick.
Alec Brondi is delightfully despicable. On one hand I admire his cunning, his Faux Evilly Affable demeanor, his avoidance of traditional villain pitfalls like over-confidence or taking things too personally, and the grandiose scale of his Evil Plan. On the other hand, he's such a loathsome creep that I'm looking forward to Ethan blowing his brains out.
The crop of lesser and supporting characters are also good. As with the world building, there is a balance between making them more then walking names and info dump that slows down the plot.
The polish is pretty good overall. I didn't see much in the way of grammar/spelling problems;certainly not enough to affect the grade. More importantly, there is no word cruft. This provides that crisp, polished, feel that makes the sentence-by-sentence nuts and bolts of the story appear so professional.
I have nothing constructive to say. Since I became a volunteer book reviewer, this is the second full length novel that I have awarded the following score to.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Dark Space" an A+
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