By Jacob P. Torres
Find my spoiler-free review of Killing Gravity by Corey J. White, the first novella in his Voidwitch saga and his debut work. The sequel Void Black Shadow is already out and the third novella, Static Ruin, will be coming out later this year.
Cover Description: “Mars Xi can kill you with her mind, but she’ll need more than psychic powers to save her in Killing Gravity, the thrilling science fiction space adventure debut by Corey J. White.
Before she escaped in a bloody coup, MEPHISTO transformed Mariam Xi into a deadly voidwitch. Their training left her with terrifying capabilities, a fierce sense of independence, a deficit of trust, and an experimental pet named Seven. She’s spent her life on the run, but the boogeymen from her past are catching up with her. An encounter with a bounty hunter has left her hanging helpless in a dying spaceship, dependent on the mercy of strangers.
Penned in on all sides, Mariam chases rumors to find the one who sold her out. To discover the truth and defeat her pursuers, she’ll have to stare into the abyss and find the secrets of her past, her future, and her terrifying potential.”
What is the book about?
“Mars Xi can kill you with her mind,” even the cover description makes it sound like this book and the novella series was inspired by the character River Tam from Firefly, followed by the question, “What if she was sane?” Miriam “Mars” Xi is the product of a government institution called MEPHISTO (which actually stands for something, but only that White really wanted it to say MEPHISTO) that has enhanced her body and conditioned her mind until she developed powerful psychic abilities. With the help of another child/test subject Miriam escaped the facility that was making her a voidwitch and has been on the run ever since. This novella starts with Miriam and Seven, her genetically engineered cat… thing, stranded on the wreck of the last ship she stole. She is promptly rescued by a crew of a salvage ship and that promptly kicks off our adventure. MEPHISTO learns of where Miriam is and since the full force of their shadowy cabal after her. Miriam will have to track down people from her past and confront her demons, both figurative and literal, if she’s going to survive.
What Did I Like About the Book?
For a novella, this story covers a lot of space, introduces a cast of characters and concepts and gives us a real fun, if slightly unpolished, adventure. There are a lot of common elements to the story, but they don’t feel overdone or cumbersome. The characters all feel fully developed even though we don’t get to spend a lot of time with them, and the narrative from Miriam’s perspective feels genuine.
Who was my Favorite Character?
Miriam is really my only choice here, we don’t have enough time with any of the other characters to really invest ourselves in liking them or hating them. Miriam and her weird space cat are an engaging and fun duo and while they’re not laugh-out-loud, they did make me smile several times. Miriam really feels like a character that’s been on the run for most of her life. A little bit hurried, a lot untrusting, mercurial and mercenary but moral at her core and when that’s challenged she rises to the occasion.
What Did I Not Like?
Mostly that it was too short. There is a really good foundation laid here for upcoming novellas but I can’t help but feel that the story would’ve benefited from being a full-length novel. Not all of the elements get enough discussion or description and the novella itself can feel a bit rushed. The very best novellas, like the best books, do two things real well, they leave you wanting more from the characters or world (which Killing Gravity did), AND they deliver a story that feels complete (Killing Gravity missed this one). Killing Gravity tells a good story, but at times it comes off as a pitch for a great movie or a work in progress.
3.0 out of 5 cups of tea for this one. White delivered a competently written space adventure with all the elements of a fantastic series, but it felt a little thin and a little rushed. The characters, what we see of them, are solid, genuine, and mostly engaging. White paints a picture of a much larger world where I would like to see a lot more time devoted to discovering.
|Final Verdict: 3.0 out of 5 cups of tea for this one. White delivered a competently written space adventure with all the elements of a fantastic series, but it felt a little thin and a little rushed.|
|+ Miriam is great and paints a real picture of some of the cost of being on the run your whole adult life.||– It’s too short, as a novella it didn’t give that feeling of this was the whole story that you get from the best short fictions.|
|+ Lots of great elements and worldbuilding that could lend itself to much larger books or a much longer series.||– We didn’t get enough time with any character but Miriam for us to really have strong opinions about them.|
|+ Seven the weird space cat was a nice addition that really helped to humanize Miriam.||– A lot of retreaded elements are put together in new and/or unique was but gives a feeling of playing in someone else’s sandbox.|