Shooting the Rift
by Alex Stewart
Cover Artist: Stephan Martiniere
Review by Mel Jacob
Baen Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781476781181
Date: 05 April 2016 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Faster than light travel via gravity wells to far flung outposts provides the setting for Alex Stewart's Shooting the Rift. The Commonwealth sector and the League worlds are on the brink of war. Each seeks an edge against the other.
Born into a matriarchal society where women are the warriors and men raise the children and manage family finances, young Simon Forrester wants to be a doer and a naval officer. He early learns ways to manipulate neuroware to eavesdrop and find ways to gain an edge against others, especially his mother, a naval commander.
When he tries to enter the Commonwealth Naval Academy, he is caught snooping test answers and is dismissed in disgrace. His mother disowns him and only his paternal aunt is sympathetic. The aunt is a warrant officer, but also a Commonwealth spy and recruits Simon to help her. She gets him a berth aboard a Guild cargo hauler, the Stacked Deck, as a crewman. Some of the crew have enhanced abilities courtesy of genetic manipulation.
Once the captain learns Simon has managed to download information from a customs officer, he is made a guild member. He hopes to use Simon's abilities to eavesdrop on various officials.
The captain agrees to take a rush cargo to a League world. Guild ships are allowed to travel between both empires. Simon hopes the trip will provide useful information for his aunt. However, once in League space, the Stacked Deck and its crew are taken prisoners. The League is looking for spies among the various Guild crews.
Simon's skills are severely strained to both avoid detection and to escape from the League prison. However, he cannot do it alone. His former shipmates don't trust him and are glad to leave him behind.
Stewart uses old tropes with a few twists. Simon is a sympathetic character as are shipmate Clio and her father. The transgenetic people are interesting although Captain Ertica is too similar to the comic book character Poison Ivy. While originality may be lacking, Shooting the Rift is a fun Young Adult read with a likable hero.