The first in an SF trilogy.
Publication year: 2002
Page count: 451
Jocelyn Musey, Jos, was born in a merchant space ship Mukudoki. But space pirate Falcone attacks the ship, kills all the adults and kidnaps the kids. The kids are terrified that they’re going to be sold into slavery. Falcone personally talks with the eight-year-old Jos and strips him naked. One time, when Jos wakes up all the other kids are gone. Falcone doesn’t talk about them; instead he takes Jos as a sort of protégé. He teaches the boy good manners, gambling, and other things. All the while, Jos lives in constant fear. He doesn’t know what Falcone wants from him but he’s afraid that Falcone will sexually abuse him. A year later, Jos has a chance to escape and he takes it. But he’s shot and ends up on the wrong side of the war. The enemy aliens take him with them.
The EarthHub is in a war against an alien race, called the strits, and their human allies. Jos doesn’t know much about it, but he’s terrified of the aliens and think their human allies are traitors to their race. However, one of the alien sympathizers takes him in and start to train him. Jos wants to trust him, but previous experiences have taught him not to.
After Mukudori’s destruction, Jos is very much a broken character. He has a desperate yearning for love and understanding and a safe place. When he finally finds someone he can trust, this person sends him away on an undercover mission where Jos has to infiltrate a tightly-knit military unit. All around him he sees the camaraderie and friendships which he really wants but he keeps himself aloof from everyone. And he’s not yet even 20 years old; he’s still growing up and trying to find a place for himself.
This is a very dark book, dealing with themes of abuse, murder, and betrayal. But it’s a hopeful book, too. It’s very intense and heart wrenching.
It starts in second person which gives the readers a distance to all the horrible things that happen during Mukudori’s destruction. Then it switches into first person, giving us a very intimate insight into Jos.
The alien culture seems to be inspired by Spartan and Japanese samurai culture, at least the parts that we see of it. The aliens are very reserved people and expect the humans to behave the same way. But Jos never has the opportunity to choose if he wants to be a part of that culture so to me it seemed unfair how he is expected to tightly keep his feeling in check all the time, even as a teenager.
The other books in the series have different main characters. However, I would have wanted more closure from the ending; perhaps we’ll see more of Jos in other books as a minor character.