reviewed by Pam Guynn
If you enjoy books with a main character who finds herself in the middle of a crisis and hoping to survive, then look no further than Joe Pitkin’s Exit Black. Imperium is an orbiting laboratory that still has working labs, but is now the first low orbit space hotel for the wealthy. Dr. Chloe Bonilla, the resident biophysicist wonders whether babysitting space glampers is worth the distraction from her research.
A private rocket delivers several billionaires plus a sponsored social media influencer. However, among the staff are members of a global group called the Reckoners intent on changing the economic inequality on Earth. This group takes control of the space hotel and demand $8 billion in ransom from their wealthy hostages. Additionally, they forced the other support staff in the room with the wealthy hostages. Their problem? Chloe woke up and left her room before they got to her. It’s up to her to save the hostages.
While most of the book is from Chloe’s point of view, readers get insight into a few of the other characters as well. Chloe has insomnia, can be stubborn when challenged, has a sense of detachment, and enjoys brainteasers. The other characters have varying degrees of depth, but felt rounded with complex traits. This includes a couple of the antagonists.
What a beginning prologue! It pulled me into the story immediately. While the story is descriptive, it doesn’t slow the pacing, which is heart-poundingly fast. After the opening gala for the space tourists, the velocity of the tale increases significantly. I felt like I was fighting for survival along with Chloe.
The story instills in the reader a feeling of deep anxiety for Chloe and the safety of the hostages as Chloe tries to save them and herself. It was compelling to see how different people act and react under stress. The book has a wonderfully executed action thriller plot and good character development along with a low earth orbit setting that adds another dimension. The worldbuilding was excellent. I was transported into the terrifying situation Chloe and the hostages found themselves in. The epilogue contains some surprises that completely caught me off-guard. Themes include wealth inequality, social inequality, oppression, injustices, loneliness, relationships, lies, secrets, anger, moral and physical struggles, and much more.
Overall, this is an action-packed science fiction thriller that is also thought-provoking with complex characters and plenty of angst and suspense. It kept me guessing what would happen next throughout the novel. The author is a superb space action-thriller storyteller who kept me on the edge of my sear rapidly turning the pages.
Blackstone Publishing and Joe Pitkin provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. Publication date is currently set for February 20, 2023.
More Sci-Fi Thrillers