Angela Haas delivers an energetic science fiction tale in the debut of her Keepers of the Universe series, First Strike.
The story kicks into gear as Dr. Stella Walsh is abducted from her home. She awakens in outer space alongside fellow abductee Elliot, who she’s told she’s expected to marry to help populate a newly settled planet. They barely get their feet underneath them before their ship is attacked by marauders called “Rovers.” Then they are quickly whisked away by a third group called Sentinels, who claim to be there to return the abductees to their homes.
The novel races forward at a frenetic pace, with Stella learning she’s not from Earth after all, but is the daughter of a mystical being called a Keeper of the Universe from whom she’s inherited abilities of healing and flight. The power of the Keepers is waning because they’ve been separated from each other and in hiding, and as the story unfolds, Elliot and the Sentinels begin to gather the scattered Keepers, fight the cartoonishly evil scientist Kandice Marie Shook, and help Stella develop her powers so she can rescue her long-lost mother and new friends.
The story is fast-moving, with plenty of action, and the author’s light touch adds a playful sensibility. For example, a robot who is given “a level three emotion pack” offers exuberant hugs to strangers and enthuses “oh my—this is a moment. My heart just burst into a thousand rainbows.”
Unfortunately, the plot is confusing, with constant motion and shifting viewpoints making it difficult at times to grasp the varying actors, alliances, and objectives. Readers never understand, for instance, why the scientist villain hates all other women or why she wants to capture the Keepers.
Readers who prefer realism, or emotional resonance in their speculative fiction will likely struggle with this novel. However, those who enjoy action and playful writing might appreciate the lighthearted if somewhat muddled story.