In Her Brother’s Keeper by Mike Kupari, Catherine Blackwood finds out her brother has been kidnapped by a warlord on a distant planet. Zanzibar is about as far from anywhere as you can get in known space, and Catherine’s father hires her to take her privateer ship and crew and rescue her brother. Things are never that simple, however.
Kupari does a good job introducing the characters. Catherine is a tough ship captain with an equally-tough and loyal crew. Marcus and his young daughter Annie, who get hired to help with the rescue, are resourceful settlers from the planet New Austin. Marcus is former military, and Annie is a crack shot teenager who dreams of going to the stars. I loved their family dynamic—it was actually functional and realistic!
After whaling on a local girl who killed her horse, Annie is sentenced to join Catherine’s crew for at least a year instead of going to juvenile detention. She couldn’t be more ecstatic. She was one of my favorite characters, and I would have liked to have seen more of her in Her Brother’s Keeper. Perhaps Kupari will write more stories featuring her.
Everything about the space travel had a very real feel, including the perils of wormhole transit. Things didn’t always work right afterward, and it was interesting to see everything the crew had to do after each transit. I liked how everything wasn’t roses and peaches and cream in the future, though it wasn’t a hellish place, either. Some of the technology people used was mostly beyond their understanding, but it worked, so they used it. I thought it was great that there were still mysteries to explore (some of which hinted there might be sequels).
Lang, the antagonist, was an interesting character. I liked how he was not just evil for evil’s sake. Instead, he was more nuanced, wanting to help out his world (though perhaps not in the way it wanted to be helped). He was very much an “ends justify the means” character, which is not dissimilar to many despots and tyrants we have had in the real world. This lent a gritty realism to Her Brother’s Keeper.
For a first solo novel, Kupari did a great job. The story flowed well, and the characters were interesting. If I had a major complaint, it would be not having the time to get to know more of the secondary characters. I could tell they had lives, but some of the more interesting ones were only mentioned in passing. It worked within Her Brother’s Keeper, though, and the story didn’t feel rushed. If you like adventure science fiction with a touch of military scifi, Kupari is a solid new contender in the field.
Release Date: November 3, 2015 (USA)
ISBNs: 1476780900 (9781476780900)
Publisher: Baen Books
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (occasional, social)
Language: 3 (frequent, deity, f-bombs)
Sexuality: 2 (frequent innuendo, some mild )
Violence: 4 (some brutal violence, intense battle scenes, intense beatings, extreme peril, death)