Review of Ten Low by Stark Holborn

Ten Low is an ex-army medic, one of many convicts eking out a living at the universe’s edge. She’s desperate to escape her memories of the interstellar war, and the crimes she committed, but trouble seems to follow wherever she goes. One night, attempting to atone for her sins, she pulls a teenage girl – the sole survivor – from the wreck of a spaceship. But Gabriella Ortiz is no ordinary girl. The result of a military genetics programme, she is a decorated Army General, from the opposing side of the war to Ten. Worse, Ten realises the crash was an assassination attempt, and that someone wants the Ortiz dead…
The pair bury their hatreds and strike an uneasy deal to smuggle the General off-world. Their road won’t be easy: they must cross the moon’s lawless wastes, facing military hit squads, bandits and the one-eyed leader of an all-female road gang, in a frantic race to get the General to safety. But something else waits in the darkness at the universe’s edge. Something that threatens to reveal Ten’s worst nightmare: the truth of who she really is and what she is running from.

Ten Low is a wonderfully realised story, the comparison to both firefly and Dune is really quite accurate although there are not many laughs to be found on Factus, although Gabi’s scathing sarcasm often comes close. Its been a while since I have read a pure science fiction book and I had no idea how much I needed this.  The story is totally immersive and the narrative is so strong that I could almost feel the dust in my mouth as I was reading. Factus has a very mad max style vibe, forgotten about, making its own rules, yet a moon which has many of it’s own superstitions born out of being right next to the void. The presence of the “Ifs” was probably my favourite part of the story, how they changed and developed as an entity as Ten started to remember more of her troubled past was fantastic to read.

There were great dynamics in the book as well, I loved how Ten’s friendships played a huge part in the story, the unconditional support for what she was doing was beautiful to read along with the diversity contained within those friendships. Her relationship with Gabi was the star of the show, a back and forth of emotion and rivalries as bits about each of their histories gets revealed leading to a shift in their tentative peace each time, some much harder to reconcile than others

What I didn’t like about the book, and its a personal stylistic thing rather than any real failing, is the way it’s laid out. The book is split into parts but there are no chapters within those parts, it’s just a rolling narrative relying heavily on scene breaks to give a stop point. Ten Low is the second book I have read this month with this style of approach and it’s not one that I really enjoy unfortunately.

If you want a pacey and punchy sci-fi, full of great friendships and a twisting story that will keep you guessing, I really recommend Ten Low! Thank you to Titan books for sending me a finished copy for review.