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Fortuna (The Nova Vita Protocol)

de Kristyn Merbeth

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892307,757 (3.67)1
Fortuna launches a new space opera trilogy that will hook you from the first crash landing. Scorpia Kaiser has always stood in Corvus's shadow until the day her older brother abandons their family to participate in a profitless war. However, becoming the heir to her mother's smuggling operation is not an easy transition for the always rebellious, usually reckless, and occasionally drunk pilot of the Fortuna, an aging cargo ship and the only home Scorpia has ever known. But when a deal turns deadly and Corvus returns from the war, Scorpia's plans to take over the family business are interrupted, and the Kaiser siblings are forced to make a choice: take responsibility for their family's involvement in a devastating massacre or lay low and hope it blows over. Too bad Scorpia was never any good at staying out of a fight. Perfect for fans of Becky Chambers and Catherynne M. Valente, Fortuna introduces a dazzling new voice in science fiction.… (mais)
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For a book that starts with a drunken crash landing, this did not go anywhere close to where I thought it would, and that’s a good thing. Of course, Merbeth delivers on space battles and smuggling shenanigans and everything else you’d expect from that scene, but this is also very much a story about trauma, family, interplanetary politics, ethics, and morality. It gets dark and deep, and it keeps you guessing as the problems just keep piling on.

Scorpia is by far my favourite character, though everyone with a lot of say in the story is well-written. She’s got this relentless optimism and creativity, but also a dark streak of cynicism and fear, and a lot of her arc is about dealing with the trauma of Mama’s parenting and what it means to be a good person. (She also makes poor choices when pretty girls are involved, which is endearing.) Corvus has a sadness and determination about him, Mama is objectively awful and terrifying, other characters show surprising depths just when you think they’re one-note, but Scorpia is definitely the star.

But it’s not the characters that shine here as much as it’s the solar system and the themes Merbeth’s exploring. She’s taken the premise of Single Biome Space Opera planets, added in “they will all kill you” and extinct aliens, and then delved into how the cultures and politics would shake out. It’s not good. Sometimes it’s genuinely bad. It’s entirely complicated, and the Kaiser family’s caught right in the vice between it all. In some ways, it’s like that gag of plugging one hole just for three more to open up, or maybe Whack-a-Mole, if the moles occasionally exploded.

And the themes? I’m used to space opera that’s either an adventurous romp or that really goes at some external issue. (See: the Expanse series and exploitative corporations.) This one goes into emotions a lot more, asks questions about the nature of humanity, and yes, also delivers a lot of the wild political ride that the Expanse does. I found some of the “oh but wait” moments a little hard to follow sometimes—there is sometimes a lot in play—but that didn’t stop me fearfully turning pages to find out what happens now.

Oh, and the family dynamics are something else. There’s so much fear and misinterpretation and distrust that those almost make for a satisfying story on their own. And family history, especially childhoods, factor into the intrigue and adventure surprisingly often.

For all that I’m glowing about this book, though, I didn’t love-love. Some of the narration kicked me out of the story, there were the moments I couldn’t always follow, and some of the more minor characters and moments just didn’t work for me. That said, it’s definitely a series I’m going to keep following and one I recommend, especially to fans of James S.A. Corey.

To bear in mind: Alcoholism. Maternal abuse. A really nasty bioweapon. A government that, if not fascist, is definitely getting there. PTSD and survivor’s guilt. Genre-typical violence and injury.

7.5/10 ( )
  NinjaMuse | Jul 26, 2020 |
FORTUNA, by Kristyn Merbeth, is about a family (the Kaisers) of ethically questionable traders/smugglers who live on a ship called the Fortuna. In this this epic space novel, the reader finds the family in flux, the mother of the group is looking towards retirement, the oldest daughter, Scorpia, eyes taking over the ship and the business, but being an impulsive drunk holds her back. A surprise return of the eldest child, Corvus, makes line of succession even more complicated and the rest of the family has mixed feels about both of them. All the while, a intergalactic conflict is brewing and Kaisers are thrust into the middle of it. The question quickly becomes, can the family put aside their personal issues with each other and unite together to save the universe?
Merbeth has creating a fascinatingly complicated family dynamic; the mother has children from most of the major planets and therefore the family and their ship has the unique ability to interact more planets than most. More importantly, the family has a little of everything within it: brains, brawn, cunning, leadership, etc. The family construct bears out a lot of fun moments and very real and relatable problems, even though the book takes place in futuristic space. Keeping the plot properly hidden, I will say that while there seems to be a slow down in the middle of the book, but overall the plot is interesting and has several twists and reveals that keep the reader intrigued. As the book builds to the climax, the reader can't help but pull for the family to save the universe, much like we pull for Han Solo, who while he comes from questionable background, the Kaisers and Han Solo have good hearts and want the right side to win.
FORTUNA is an exciting and one of a kind space saga and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.
Thank you to Orbit Books, Kristyn Merbeth, and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! ( )
  EHoward29 | Nov 6, 2019 |
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Fortuna launches a new space opera trilogy that will hook you from the first crash landing. Scorpia Kaiser has always stood in Corvus's shadow until the day her older brother abandons their family to participate in a profitless war. However, becoming the heir to her mother's smuggling operation is not an easy transition for the always rebellious, usually reckless, and occasionally drunk pilot of the Fortuna, an aging cargo ship and the only home Scorpia has ever known. But when a deal turns deadly and Corvus returns from the war, Scorpia's plans to take over the family business are interrupted, and the Kaiser siblings are forced to make a choice: take responsibility for their family's involvement in a devastating massacre or lay low and hope it blows over. Too bad Scorpia was never any good at staying out of a fight. Perfect for fans of Becky Chambers and Catherynne M. Valente, Fortuna introduces a dazzling new voice in science fiction.

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