By Bryan Thomas Schmidt
WordFire Press, 326 pp., $15.99
Bryan Thomas Schmidt author and Hugo-nominated editor, deals up a fun, fast-paced adventure in The Worker Price and it received an Honorable Mention on Barnes and Noble Book Club’s 2011 Science Fiction list. Wow!
The action takes place on several planets in the Boralis Solar System. Captain Xander (Davi) Rhii, the Prince and heir to his uncle, the Emperor and High Lord Councilor of the Borali Alliance, has received his first assignment upon graduation from the elite Borali Military Academy. Despite his distinguished flight skills he’s sent to Vertuliss, the only planet in the solar system with slaves, to oversee the Worker crew guards. Davi knows little about the planet only that it will be a proving ground where he’ll work to earn respect beyond his Royal Family rank.
In his first two weeks he’s stuck at the office, but then he participates in a guided tour of the area he oversees. During the tour he learns first hand the true Worker relations; the Alliance Worker guards are aggressive overlords who incorrectly report Workers are lazy, subhuman, troublemakers, and complainers. The Vertullian Workers accurately accuse the Alliance of unreasonable and unfair quotas accompanied with excessive physical abuse. In the following week he witnesses several instances of barbaric means of discipline, saves a slave from attempted rape by an off-duty guard and unintentionally kills the Alliance solider, and finally learns that two decades ago all first born Worker sons were killed, no matter their age, to “honor the gods,” yet most understood this as a preventative measure against a future Worker uprising. These revelations transform his world and challenge his understanding of the Alliance. Armed with this new knowledge Davi makes decisions that align him with the Workers and could forever alter the path of the Alliance.
Mr. Schmidt wrote an exciting, action-packed space opera embellished by dashes of the Biblical Moses story and dashes of Star Wars. In fact, Chapter One starts the excitement with a flying sky-taxi battle. The writing is easy to read and the content is PG, despite the heavy topic of slavery and freedom, making the book family friendly. There’s a glossary in the back defining all key terms, especially when one needs to know the difference between a Floater, a Courier Craft, a Shuttle, a Skitter, a Transport and VS28. Hint: you’d want to fly the VS28 in battle. The only surprising aspect of the book was religion. The Alliance believes in many gods. The Workers believe in one god. Their disparate beliefs were a source of conflict and while this is true to life and was well presented, it rang a bit hollow and, at times, sounded dogmatic. These rare instances didn’t detract from the overall story; they just caught this reader off guard, as most sci-fi novels don’t delve as deeply into religious beliefs.
The Worker Prince (Saga of Davi Rhii Book 1) introduces a new solar system, with believable good and evil characters, and a unique action-filled plot; it earned its Honorable Mention.