Assassin's Orbit by John Appel

imyril's review against another edition

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This drops you into the middle of an unfolding political shitstorm and throws characters at you like confetti. I would have appreciated a pause to catch my breath, get some world building context and - crucially - firm up who these people are and why I should care. When I’m in the mood for a plot first SF thriller I’ll probably come back to it; right now I’m all about characters and feelings or familiarity. 

deetee's review

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adventurous medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


Wanted to like it. Good concept, just never connected with any of the characters.

bory's review

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3.5 stars.

On paper, Assassin's Orbit is right up my alley. An older cast, LGBTQ+ friendly, set in space? Sign me up. And while I did like the book, it has its share of flaws. The POV cast is too large and the shifts in perspective are too frequent, making for a somewhat disjointed reading experience. Further, there were just too many balls being juggled, too many plot pthreads happening simultaneously, to the point that it was at times hard to keep track of of the story. Honestly, Assassin's Orbit reads like there should be a book in this universe preceding it, only there isn't There were points in the story where it felt like I was missing something because I was reading book two in a series without having read book one, only there is no book one.

But, overall, the action is well-written and plentiful, but more importantly - I like the setting and I like the characters. I like the idea of the Unity Plague, and I would like to explore the consequences for these worlds, especially Salju, and how they developed because of it further. Or, alternatively, I would like to spend some more time with Toiwa, dealing with the consequences of the events of this story. Either would work. In any case, if and when Appel publishes a sequel, I will probably pick it up.

hartd's review

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This is an intense and action-packed sci-fi adventure novel, and I enjoyed it a lot.

The tagline probably got a lot of people's attention ("Golden Girls meets The Expanse with a side of Babylon Five") and I don't think it's accurate. The only thing it has in common with The Golden Girls is that most of the major characters are older women. The youngest is in her 40s and most are over 60. There's no real humor except (very rarely) a sardonic line here or there - which is fine, it's not that kind of book. But if you're looking for a cozy read with a heavy focus on friendship, or anything in the realm of comedy, this is not that book! It's action-focused, with a lot of political intrigue. The characters are definitely interesting people, but it isn't a character-driven story. There's almost no one-on-one interpersonal drama of any kind. There are some nice friendship moments as the story progresses, and a very light romantic side plot, but neither of those are given too much attention.

I'm not too familiar with The Expanse, having only read the first book, but this book didn't feel too much like that one. I do see the influence of Babylon Five, though. There are a lot of important characters and several important factions, all with different motivations and goals. Some of the battle scenes also reminded me strongly of Battlestar Galactica (2004). I also see the author has written a Shadowrun campaign and that definitely makes sense, because Shadowrun was in my mind during certain moments (there isn't anything fantasy-oriented going on, though).

The premise: a few centuries before the story begins, humans had to flee Earth and founded colonies on extra-solar planets. These colonies are loosely linked to current cultures, and all of the action in this book takes place in Ileri space, where people's ancestors are from Nigeria (again, loosely). And there's trouble on the station, beginning with a massacre. Somehow, I thought this would be a mystery novel with a sci-fi setting; while the characters do solve the mystery over the course of the story, the situation surrounding it is more important than the actual crime. I found that plot thread a little unsatisfying, although you do learn who did it and why.

There really are a lot of major characters, enough that it was difficult to keep track of them. The point-of-view characters are all multifaceted people with strengths and flaws. Their main common trait is competence in their fields. I had the most affection for Noo, a private investigator in her 60s. She seems like the main character (although the book does not really have one). Her motivations were clear and easiest for me to understand. I very much appreciated that all of these characters are competent and tough and some are like action-movie heroines, but the author also allows them to be vulnerable without ever writing them as weak. Their hands shake from adrenaline overload, their muscles ache after fights, and so on, yet I never thought they were about to fall apart. It read as realistic to me.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, but certain aspects of it were challenging for me. The worldbuilding is very good, but somewhat complicated. There are a lot of action scenes, and they're exciting, but this amount of action scenes is not really to my taste as a reader. All of the point-of-view characters are important and I see how everything contributed to the whole, but there are just so many. It took me a few minutes every time to reorient myself for the different characters' chapters or sections.

A note on lgbtq+ rep, since people here have shelved the book that way: this is a book with a queer-inclusive setting rather than one with a focus on lgbtq+ rep. All rep is incidental and feels very casual. I liked this, and it's definitely pleasant to imagine.

leticiatoraci's review

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This wasn't unfortunately for me. It sounded much more like a mystery set in a space station than as if science fiction was its main genre. It had indeed a slow beginning with an investigation like the first book of The Expanse series.
The premise was interesting but the detailed descriptions, the slow plot development and the writing style didn't keep me hooked enough. I believe this book will be much more interesting for mystery fans or people who liked the Expanse series slow development.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

grmatthews's review

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I whizzed through the last 50% because the action just never stopped!

The world-building is excellent and there is a lot of tech and ideas to get your head around as you go. More than that, there is a large cast of characters and I loved the fact they were all 16 to 25 - but older, aged, and still kick-ass!

roganshannon's review

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adventurous dark mysterious tense fast-paced


Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy to review.

Representation: Main characters are senior citizens and all women. Full BIPOC cast, multiple queer characters, use of neopronouns.

The planet Ileri is planning to vote on joining the Commonwealth, but a government minister is assassinated, which threatens everything that people have worked for. Private investigator Noo Okereke, spy Meiko Ogawa, and police chief Toiwa are forced to work together on the investigation. They discover a wide-spread political conspiracy, something that was thought to have been left behind in the past civilization, and tensions running through everything. What these three discover could spark a whole interplanetary war if the mystery isn’t solved.

Rating: 5/5 There is SOOOO much that I left out, because I don’t want to spoil anything, and I wouldn’t do it justice. This takes place mostly on a space station, with one brief trip planetside. All of our main characters are women and what we would consider senior citizens, which is great! This definitely changed how the story was told, because each of these characters have decades of experience and knowledge with them. This is basically a space opera, and damn, I loved it! There’s multiple queer characters, neopronouns are used, and all of them are BIPOC from what I can figure. One bit of note, there are a lot of characters, so it can sometimes be hard to keep track of who’s who, especially when the perspective’s changed between chapters. Just be aware of that going into this, but apart from this, I loved this book and would absolutely recommend for those who enjoy sci-fi, mysteries, thrillers, political intrigue.

rubybastille's review against another edition

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adventurous fast-paced


While I loved the diversity and the worldbuilding (I don’t read a lot of hard SF so it was cool to see how different kinds of tech and spaceflight work), I admit I had a lot of trouble keeping track of all the characters and factions. 

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shae_says's review

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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an e-ARC
The setting was intriguing, so was the initial plot. However, characterization is very important to me and I wasn't able to connect with anyone in the book. There was no emotional involvement. I tried my best to push myself to finish but just couldn't! DNF-ing it at 33%

detailsandtales's review

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This story is doing complex work, following multiple viewpoints as characters work apart and together to solve a high-stakes mystery while also figuring out which lines they draw and whether they are wiling to cross those lines under the right circumstances. I appreciate so many of the things Appel tried to do here, including the gender-flipping--in our world, most of the protagonists in positions of leadership would be male, but in this story, they are female, and the clearly intentional diversity of the population on the station and planet. There are characters of multiple religions including Islam and what I believe is Yoruba (I'm not sure whether the book names it, but there are Orishas). At one point, a rabbi walks by. There are also a number of older protagonists, as well as queer characters and disabled characters--including a blind POV character with some pretty awesome assistive technology. All that having been said, this book could have used some stronger editing. The writing is rough around the edges in some places, with words repeated in adjacent sentences, and places where there is either too much information presented or too little. Still, there's a good story here, and I am aware that I have high standards.