Windswept by Adam Rakunas. ★★★★
This science fiction thriller was a true delight! It was fun, fast paced, and I adored the heroine.
Padma Mehta’s a crotchety union rep dreaming of retirement and her plans to buy a distillery. But for her dreams to come true, she needs to get thirty-three more people for her head count. Which means she needs to wait for thirty-three more people to fall from the sky.
Most of known space is controlled by three mega-corporations, who rely on the labor of indentured servants. But corporate life isn’t all its cracked up to be, and some indentures Breach – fleeing down the space elevator to the Union on Padma’s backwater, sugar cane producing planet.
When a small time con artist tells Padma that forty people are about to Breach, of course Padma checks it out. But in her desperate bid to make her headcount, Padma stumbles onto a plot that could endanger her entire planet.
Padma was far and away my favorite thing about Windswept. She’s just so self confident and audacious! I knew I utterly loved her when near the beginning of the book she’s pulling Breaches out of the ocean when some corporate ships start to go after their boat. Padma jumps overboard, uses her SF mind link thingie to take a photo of the corporate boats speeding away from her, and posts the photo on the net with a caption something like, “WalWa sees me drowning and does nothing! Hire lawyers and avenge me!” How can you not love a heroine like that? Plus, it’s rare to find an older heroine in science fiction. Padma was great on so many levels.
I also enjoyed the world Rakunas has created. I always like when speculative fiction novels actually consider how economics impact their setting, and Windswept was great for this. Padma’s planet is entirely reliant on the production of sugar cane, since industrial grade molasses is used as fuel for space ships. If the sugar cane crop fails, the economy fails with it, and the Union and all its workers would be at the mercy of the corporate overlords.
Windswept was just so much fun. The pacing’s good, and the action snaps along. I wouldn’t say it belongs to the subgenre of science fiction humor, but what humor it has is excellently used. Basically, it’s such a great debut. I can’t wait to read the sequel!