Rating: 5 out of 5
Thank goodness author Krista D. Ball is planning another book or two for this series, because I really want to know more. Rebel (Collaborator Book 3) has our erstwhile rebels getting onboard Captain Arthur Randall Liberty (the Eighth)’s ship. Apparently the man inherited wealth, and uses it to finance the rebels here and there. He’s also a prick. He’s not happy about Tobi’s appearance, nor Rebecca’s–they’re more than just a couple of no-name fugitives at this point. Lots of people are hiding secrets, some of which could be dangerous. Rebecca’s just had some bad news from the doctor when Arty (Arthur) shuffles her off and manipulates her into taking a job with his crew. Then he hustles her off below-decks where she can’t contact any of her people, can’t access the prescriptions her doctor has given her, and can’t go back up to the main part of the ship. She finds there are hundreds of people basically working as indentured servants, often with trumped-up “debts” to be worked off. Those who are sick can’t even see the doctor. When Tobi and Kat realize Rebecca’s missing, they find that the ship’s computer refuses to acknowledge she even came on board. Mav’s borderline useless (he’s drinking away his trauma), Nate has been lying about his past, Tobi can barely walk, Abby’s about to give birth (and is the only doctor on board), and in her new job Rebecca discovers that multiple people on board the ship are sending transmissions to the Corps. Now she just has to figure out how to contact her team.
There are a bunch of things Ball does extremely well that I love seeing, and that aren’t by any means normal to science fiction. For one, Rebecca clearly suffers from depression, PTSD, and severe anxiety, and is often too scared to lie well or do anything against the rules. While I love stories that put me in the place of a heroine who’s bad-ass, it’s really amazing for once to read a character like me placed in these situations. Two, the effects of torture aren’t hand-waved away. Mav is having serious problems coping with what happened to him, and he’s dealing with it poorly (but without turning into a prick). Three, Kat and Tobi both notice that Rebecca is missing fairly quickly. Too often in these stories characters are unrealistically blase about the fact that they haven’t seen a person recently, particularly in these kinds of close-knit circumstances. Ball really knocks the verisimilitude out of the park, and it’s so refreshing.
It’s great to see Rebecca making friends and being appreciated for what she’s capable of, rather than ostracized for what she isn’t capable of. K, Regina, and Big Fred, some of her new co-workers, are happy with what she brings to the table. It puts into perspective the resistance, which, while filled with some well-intentioned people, isn’t always nice, and often takes an “ends justify the means” approach. It’s also wonderful to see Rebecca taking some initiative in using some of her tech skills to try to find her way out of what she’s gotten into.
The characters are wonderful, the worldbuilding is spare yet elegant, and there’s plenty of tense action and and spycraft going on. I can’t wait for more!