REVIEW: Blood Orbit (Gattis File #1) by K.R.Richardson
Eric Matheson, an idealistic rookie cop trying to break from his powerful family, is plunged into the investigation of a brutal crime in his first weeks on the job in Angra Dastrelas, the corrupt capital city of the corporate-owned planet Gattis. A newcomer to the planet, Matheson is unaware of the danger he’s courting when he’s promoted in the field to assist the controversial Chief Investigating Forensic Officer, Inspector J. P. Dillal, the planet’s first cybernetically enhanced investigator. Coming from a despised ethnic underclass, the brilliant and secretive Dillal seems determined to unravel the crime regardless of the consequences. The deeper they dig, the more dangerous the investigation becomes. But in a system where the cops enforce corporate will, instead of the law, the solution could expose Gattis’s most shocking secrets and cost thousands of lives–including Matheson’s and Dillal’s.
Dear K.R. Richardson,
I love science fiction and I love mysteries. Your book promised a blend of the two, so I took a chance and dived in. The blurb provides an excellent set-up. Eric Matheson is assigned to Angra Dastrelas straight from the police academy. Initially he is supposed to do street patrols (or at least that was my understanding); however, he and his partner discovered a brutal murder of sixteen people and, as a result of being first at the scene, Erik is reassigned from street patrol to assist Inspector J.P. Dillal in the investigation of the murder.
Angra Dastrelas is a planet owned by the corporation. The corporation engages in the brutal oppression of three main native ethnic groups and policemen are not servants of the law, but employees of the corporation. Except there are some policemen who still try to do the right things and inspector Dillal is one of those policemen. He is happy to get a new guy as his assistant/helper because he can train him properly and maybe hope he won’t be corrupted.
The inspector’s voice was still soft, but cut clearly. “You’re avoiding my question. You were the first man on the scene—or near enough.” He finished typing and put the entry equipment away, turning his disturbing gaze back to Matheson. Dillal’s jaw and the corner of his right eye were tight from fatigue or pain. “You’re academy-trained, which means you’re not stupid, you’re well-educated, and you might have some innate skill at this. So, before you were four hours into overtime, when you first saw this scene, what was your immediate impression?”
Dillal is brilliant, dedicated, but he is also an ambitious underdog who wants to advance through the corrupted system to change it or destroy it from within and I really liked him.
Tyreda paused and frowned, thinking before he answered, “No. You’re the best street investigator I ever saw—even when the guys you’re trying to help would rather see you dead than say thanks. But you’re kind of an asshole—you’re arrogant and you don’t know your place—” “My place . . .” Dillal gave a bitter chuckle. “How is my parentage or the color of my skin an indication of my worth, my willingness, or my intelligence?” “We’ve done this before,” Tyreda said, shaking his head. “You’re the wrong guy every time, but you just keep going till you hit the wall. And then you force your way through it anyhow. I admire your guts, but you’re nobody’s kid—not Dreihleen enough, not Ohba enough, and not somethin’ else, either. You’re too smart, too pushy, and too colored for your own good, no matter who’s measuring.”
I thought the investigation aspect of the story was exceptionally well done. The readers have a chance to observe the investigation in great detail. We observe Dillal teaching Eric to think for himself, to further develop his skills, but he does not engage in long monologues – it is all blended with fast moving adventure amongst the bleak oppressive atmosphere the corporation creates on this planet.
Eric was a great character, too; I really enjoyed watching his growth throughout the book. I really liked that Dillal experienced some growth and change, too, but as Erik has far more to learn it was not as noticeable.
I have to say, though, one thing which kind of passed by me was the reason why Dillal wanted to participate in the cybernetic enhancements program. I understood that this was beneficial for his career advancement and I know it helped in the investigation – Dillal was able to analyze the crime scene so much faster, etc. I just wasn’t sure that it helped them achieve a turning point in the investigation, if that makes sense. Their investigative and interrogation skills enabled Dillal and Eric to do their jobs well – maybe that was the point in the first place.
The doctor who was observing Dillal throughout his integration with his implants was an awesome character. The book is not a light read and does not really have humorous moments, but the doctor did provide at least some well needed snark.
“I appreciate that you don’t want to be impaired on the job but I’ve put enough people back together in field hospitals from Marshel to Kora to know suppression when I see it. If you clench any more, you’ll break a tooth. Don’t be such a fragging man about it—take the darkness-blighted pills they’re going to give you. If you want something else, let me know. I won’t put it on your records and I’m not going to turf you to Pritchet for walking off the straight-and-narrow—not that either of us is familiar with that road.”
The mystery in the book is solved at the end, and I don’t think any spoilers will be revealed when I say that both Dillal and Eric do survive and stay on as each other’s partners. It’s not surprising that the political situation on Gattis is not really changing for the better by the end of this first book. While the ending definitely signals *possible* change in the political landscape in the future, I am not sure whether I am happy about that or not.