Queenie's Brigade
by Heather Massey, futuristic (2011)
Red Sage Publishing, $3.49, ISBN 978-160310-713-6


Captain Michael Drake of Relentless is not having a good day. First off, he has to order a retreat because Earth is being pulverized by a huge army of those Calithian aliens and he thinks it's best to retreat and fight another day. With his tail between his legs, he docks his ship at a prison colony called Hades Station for some repairs, only to realize too late that the inmates had taken over shortly before his ship arrived and now the crew are at the mercy of Queenie, the leader of these prisoners. Queenie has little love for the military, while Michael realizes that the thousand-strong folks running the show in the station will make a strong army to help him retake Earth. Can these two come to some kind of compromise so that they can kick alien ass?

Queenie's Brigade is a pretty simple and straightforward story. Its strength lies mostly in the main characters and their romance. Both characters are strong leaders in their own right, and I have to give Ms Massey plenty of kudos for sticking to her guns and letting Queenie be a tough leader of a bunch of rough folks, even if this means letting Queenie do some pretty nasty things for a romance heroine. It's fun to follow their romance because the games are played between two people on an equal footing.

However, the shortness of this story also means that the rest of the story feels underdeveloped. I have a hard time believing, for example, that an invasion on Earth will feel so lacking in urgency here. I mean, shouldn't there be some kind of constant communication between Drake and the other folks who are trying to repel the invaders? Here, it seems like Drake is doing all the work on his own, and I find that hard to believe. Earth is being invaded, so I can't help expecting something more dramatic and grand, like, I don't know, maybe Queenie and Drake amassing allies to take back Earth by helping the krogans cure the genophage, stopping the thousand-year long war of attrition between the quarians and the geths, building the Crucible... oops, wrong story. I'm hoping for something bigger in scope, more dramatic, or at the very least, a climax with a better bang (and I don't mean that kind of bang). Here, it's just Drake and Queenie and their gang and, come on, it's an Earth invasion. It's all a little too small scale for me, for a plot of this magnitude.

At any rate, Queenie's Brigade is a very readable story, thanks to the author's engaging narrative style. But it's hard for me to buy this story completely because the fundamental premise of this story screams for a far more longer length so that there can be stirring moments of heroism, sacrifice, and all that wonderful stuff that makes good space opera so beautiful to savor.

Or maybe I've just been spoiled by one too many Mass Effect games.

Still, a good try, and I do like how the author allows the heroine to do her thing without worrying too much about how genteel readers may perceive Queenie. Next time, though, let's not hold back on the fireworks.

Rating: 70


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