Reviews

ADRIFT (Donovan #5), by W. Michael Gear

I received this novel from DAW Books, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review: my thanks to both of them for this opportunity.

Welcome (back) to Donovan… The most dangerous, most deadly planet explored by mankind returns with the newest perspective on its perils: I’m so glad that author W. Michael Gear decided to go further than the initially planned trilogy set in the extraterrestrial world of Donovan, because there is just so much to explore here, certainly material enough for several more installments in this series.  So far, each book has taken us to a different area of the world and the focus on new characters in each volume – besides the “regulars” that always make an appearance – has helped in keeping the narrative fresh and intriguing.

In Adrift we follow three different storylines, two of them concerning characters we already met: former corporate supervisor Kalico Aguila is determined, more than ever, to make her mining project work, and such determination – together with the harrowing experiences she faced and overcame on the planet – has turned her from the hated face of the Corporation into a Donovanian through and through, another hardy settler driven to forge a new life on the alien planet and a respected member of the community, one capable of inspiring loyalty and even affection. Talina Perez, the security chief carrying Donovanian DNA – or rather TriNA – that has transformed her into a sort of hybrid, able to better integrate in the environment, has taken under her wing Derek Taglioni, once a powerful corporate leader and now one of the most tenacious explorers: in the previous installment, the man willingly accepted some quetzal TriNA, but an accident has now infected him with more than he could manage, and Talina – knowing how unpredictable the transformation can be – takes him away from Port Authority for his own sake and the safety of the other inhabitants of the small enclave.

The third point of view concerns the Maritime Unit, a group of scientists ferried by the latest ship with the goal of exploring Donovan’s oceans: after their harrowing experiences aboard  Ashanti, where a number of passengers turned into a cannibalistic sect, they are eager to start their work in the self-sustaining pod placed on the chosen seabed. Like most new arrivals, the scientists are not overly worried by the old-timers’ warnings about Donovan’s dangers: after so many years spent in an enclosed space, living with the fear of the savage Unreconciled, they want to offer their children the joys of nature, and the chance of exploring the possibilities of the new world. But Donovan being Donovan, they have no idea of what kind of threats this planet has in store for them…

Adrift might very well be the best Donovan book to date: the constant change of perspective between the three main narrative threads imparts a sense of urgency and impending doom to the story that is more nerve-ravaging than what I experienced in previous books. Where in other novels this kind of shift might prove irritating or distracting, here all its does is compel you to turn the pages faster to learn what else is happening to the characters: even though the three separate storylines don’t mix (except for a brief moment toward the end) they all serve to showcase the extreme hostility of this world and the way the people have to adapt to survive, how they must never, ever, take anything for granted. By this fifth book we have learned that Donovan can throw anything at the people trying to colonize it, and we are made aware that there might never be an end to the hostility ingrained in the planet’s ecosystem, and that the unwary will not survive long.

While it was fun to reacquaint myself with Talina, Kalico, and other Port Authority settlers, who have now become almost like household names, my attention was riveted by what happens on the Maritime Unit’s pod: so far the Donovan series has offered a mix of science fiction, adventure and the strangeness of an alien world, but with Adrift horror has been added to the mix, and in significant quantity.   In my review for book 4, Unreconciled, I asked myself what kind of menace might be in store for the oceanographers, because if the land held so many dangers, the sea was bound to do so as well: never, in my wildest imaginings, I would have conceived of a peril so insidious as the one the scientists face, even worse than the half-seen monster that toward the end of that book dispatched the man-eating Unreconciled.  Since I intend to keep this review as spoiler-free as I can, I will not reveal any details, but suffice it to say that the ocean-based pod becomes the theater of a closed-space horror story that could easily give the Alien franchise a good run for its money, particularly because it all starts in such an offhand way that no one really understands what’s going on until it’s too late. And because the deadly threat comes from the most unexpected direction…

There are truly no limits to W. Michael Gear’s power of imagination as he crafts new creatures in the wild, deadly Donovan ecosystem, gifting them not only with predatory instincts but also with various levels of intelligence: survival on this planet is not only a matter of physical strength or improved protections, what truly counts here is the ability to think and plan several moves ahead of your opponents in the food chain. And no matter how many victories humans are able to score, either the price they have to pay for them is quite steep, or those victories are only temporary, because something bigger, stronger or more determined to kill them will always loom over the horizon.  And I can’t wait to see what this author has in store for us (and his characters) next.

Welcome to Donovan… 😉

My Rating:

17 thoughts on “ADRIFT (Donovan #5), by W. Michael Gear

  1. What a glowing review! 😀 I am very intrigued about the elements of horror introduced in this book, I haven’t read many books that successfully managed to grasp the “Alien feel”! I’m glad this series is working for you so well, I’m adding the first book to my wishlist! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m about halfway through and the horrors of the Maritime Unit are just getting started…I’m riveted! And I agree, I’m really enjoying all three storylines, where in the previous book that wasn’t always the case. Awesome review!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a compelling review! Sadly I have yet to start this series, and lately this is a thing that I am saying too often (I mag try to do something about it in the Summer if I don’t fall in another slump, because there is some need for organization on my TBR. A dire need for it!) bit, back to the series at hand, I am really curious. I need to visit this universe and I need to see for myself all these wonders (even if they are pretty scary and bad for human health!). I have to say that I am not an horror fan, but since there are quite a lot of books before this particular one, I don’t think this would be a problem, at least for now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The horror element (and it’s just an element, not the core of the story) comes into play only in this book, because the rest of the series is equal parts adventure, character growth and exploration of a very interesting – if deadly – world. I know what you mean about looking at books and/or series and knowing you want to read them but also knowing your TBR is far too full: making these choices is one of the most difficult exercises of our life! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve only skimmed this review – basically, although I’ve not started reading this series yet I would love to do so at some point and so I’m always a bit more cautious about reviews (particularly for book No.5). But, even without reading this fully your five star review is very encouraging.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand how a series that has reached book 5 already might look daunting, but let me tell you that once you start reading you will be completely won over by this amazing, lethal world and the characters that people it: I more than look forward to your comments on this compelling saga 🙂

      Like

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