Stardrifter: Hull Breach

Book review

settings scifi

I'm reading the Stardrifter series by David Collins-Rivera, and reviewing each book as I finish it. The second story in the series is Hull Breach. This review contains no spoilers.

Here's the unnecessary but obligatory disclaimer! I know the author, David Collins-Rivera, personally (he and I wrote the RPG supplements d100 OSR Traps and d100 Cursed Items together) but that doesn't influence what I write about his books, because I only publish positive reviews on this blog. When I don't like something, I don't waste time writing about it.


In the previous book, Ejoq battled space pirates and lived to tell the tale (well, if you read it, you know what I mean). In this story, he's teaching a certification course on civilian ship gunnery systems. He's actually a minor character in this story, though. This story is about a 16 year girl who's unexpectedly pregnant, living with her very conservative aunt and uncle after having been raised on the streets for most of her life. They aren't happy she's there, she's not happy to be there, she has no idea what she's going to do with her life, and so she's enrolled in a certification training course that she's not really ready for and that she'll probably fail.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is what makes the Stardrifter setting great or, said another way, it's what makes David such a great storyteller. The f irst book was all about magnetic alignment systems in a power core and a power struggle within the ranks of not-so-magnetic personalities. This one's about a working single mother-to-be, named Talu (I listened to the audiobook, so I could be spelling it wrong), who's out of her depth in life and in school, and who receives an unexpected revelation from an off-hand remark made by a convenience store clerk.

That's not sci fi, that's just...normal drama. But that's what Stardrifter can be, when it needs to be. It's a setting for space opera and for soap opera.

I know that pretty much any setting can withstand a little personal drama. I've seen an episode of Warhammer TV about a woman's love for her pet (sure it was a robot, but it's the future). There have been entire episodes of Star Trek that were about minor cultural differences, or fears about starting a new job, or getting funding for a school. Stardrifter isn't exactly forging new ground by telling stories about the humans within its universe, but this story broadcasts a few things about both humanity and the Stardrifter setting.

First of all, humanity's holding the line in the future. In the first book, after Sally reported her ex-husband for abuse, the authorities did something about it. They didn't write it off as a personal matter between her and the man she made the mistake of marrying. In this story, there's a lot of compassion. Talu attends classes expecting failure. She's been set up for it all her life. Her mother was an addict, and Talu was mostly raised on the streets. The galaxy doesn't do her any favours. But in the end, she gets through it, and the most sci fi thing to happen in the story is that humans show empathy and compassion for someone who's in danger of choosing to fail. That's the future I read sci fi to see.

It's a tough story, honestly. It hits hard. There aren't space pirates in this one, and Ejoq can't power down any systems and hastily fix everything. Ejoq is just another authority figure in this book, somebody to hold Talu back. But that's not what he does, of course. And yet, Ejoq doesn't really do anything in this story. The decisions are Talu's, and the progress is her own. That's not to say that she succeeds. She fails in this story. But she fails forward, having learned lessons about life, about people, and about herself.


For me, some of David's best writing happens in the convenience stores and phone booths and garages. A lot of my adult life has been spent in old, forgotten, oily places, so I strongly identify with them, for better or for worse. That's what a lot of life situations reveals: the best and the worst. Talu faces the worst of it, but she manages to get glimpses of a better life, and she takes the opportunity when it's presented to her. If the future can be a utopia, at least it can be kind to people in need. And if the future isn't, then at least the Ejoq Desantos out there can make up the difference. Go read it!

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

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