Story Rating: 4 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Richard Eckman
Length: 6 hours, 47 minutes
Captain Matt Spears is a smuggler and he’s used to living on the wrong side of the law. But this latest job has him worried. His mysterious employer won’t identify himself and wants Matt to transport pilot Ryce Faine to an undisclosed location. Matt isn’t happy with the secrecy, and is even less happy letting someone else pilot his ship. But Matt and his crew are in need of some cash and so, against his better judgement, Matt takes the job.
Matt finds Ryce arrogant and annoying, but he grudgingly accepts that Ryce is an amazing pilot, particularly after they manage to evade attack by Alraki pirates. And it looks like Ryce is going to need every one of his flying skills to complete their mission. They are headed to a remote moon in the middle of a dangerous asteroid field where, rumor has it, they will find the abandoned military base of an ancient civilization. There is an artifact hidden there that Ryce needs to retrieve to complete their job, and despite the near impossibility of making it safely to the moon, Ryce’s stellar flying gets them there.
Landing on the moon turns out to be the easy part, however. The base is dangerous and the men barely survive. But what’s worse is when Matt learns what the artifact is and how Matt’s employer tends to use it. Matt is normally happy to turn a blind eye, but this situation is one that even he can’t ignore. All of that may not matter, however, if he and Ryce can’t make it off the moon safely. And even once they do, old enemies that return may be more than Matt and Ryce can survive.
Adrift is the first book in Isabelle Adler’s Staying Afloat series and I really enjoyed this science fiction adventure. From the first pages where we meet Matt and his crew, things move forward nicely. The stage is set quickly for the conflict, as Matt is takes on a job he isn’t so sure about, and is forced to bring on a pilot he doesn’t want. There is kind of an enemies to lovers vibe here as the guys clash early on. Not only does Matt not want Ryce flying his ship, but he finds Ryce cool and aloof. It takes some fancy flying on Ryce’s part for Matt to grudgingly accept that he is a skilled pilot and for the ice to thaw a little bit between them.
The story really took off for me when the men land on the moon and explore the abandoned base. There is a nice archaeological thriller element here as they explore the station with its alien technology. Adler gives some great world building here as we learn more about this ancient civilization, and as things turn dangerous, it is quite exciting and suspenseful. There is a lot going on here between a gangster to whom Matt owes money, the mission to the moon, pirates attacking, and someone from Matt’s past who wants to see him dead, and Adler does a nice job balancing it all. There were a few areas where I was expecting more development that never really came, however. For example, we learn that Matt is estranged from his family, but this is mostly glossed over and we don’t get the backstory I was expecting. Things also tie up a little neatly at the end without a lot of detail on the fallout.
The romance side of things is a bit slower. The men move from dislike to friendship over the course of the book, particularly as they are forced to rely on one another for safety. However, the romance never really fully developed for me. I could feel a strong bond between them men, but I just didn’t really get the transition from friendship to romance. There is just not enough really shown here to develop that aspect fully. This is the first of the series, however, and it looks as if book two continues its focus on Matt and Ryce, so hopefully the romantic side will get some more attention there.
I listened to this one in audio with narrator Richard Eckman and, overall, I thought it was a good narration. The pacing is good and Eckman gives reasonable differentiation between Matt and Ryce’s voices. Ryce’s more formal way of speaking fits well with his character. I didn’t totally love Matt’s narration, but his voice also fit his character. The bad guys are a little over the top menacing, but otherwise I felt like all the side character voices fit well and the female voices are handled nicely. Eckman also did a nice job matching the story in terms of the more intense and quieter moments and overall the narration worked for me.
So I really enjoyed this first installment in the series and the book feels complete, while still setting things up nicely for the sequel. I am definitely will be checking out the second book.