The Deep Man (2022) – by Michael Mersault
Genre: Science Fiction – Space Opera/Military
$6.99 (e-book) – $9.99 (MM paperback) – $16.00 (paperback)
This was an incredible book.
The story takes place in a far-future empire long accustomed to peace. Saef Sinclair-Maru is a newly-minted captain in the Imperial Fleet. He is a prodigy of a famous but now downtrodden Family (think of them as factions) that emphasizes honor and preparation for war in a time in which those qualities are not needed.
The social structure of the empire was rather interesting, in that it divided its population into two categories: the demi-cits, which have no political power or freedom but have their needs completely taken care of, or the vested citizen, which have a say in the government and the freedom to choose their path in life, but no safety net if they fail. And people in the empire may freely choose to change their status from demi-cit to vested and vice versa. It was a twist I hadn’t quite seen before, and while this isn’t a major plot point (at least in this book), it makes an interesting dynamic.
The characters were uniformly compelling. There’s lots of them, which in many stories tends to lead to bland character arcs, but not here. Even the side characters, from Saef’s bumbling fop friend to a newly minted vested citizen on his first cruise, are given time to shine. Mersault did a masterful job making me care for each character. Inga, Saef’s protector (via overt and covert methods), would be a compelling main character in her own right*. And the ship’s AI steals every scene it’s in – to say any more would ruin your enjoyment.
The Deep Man somehow fits all this meaty world-building and character development into a tale of breakneck action. There’s ship battles, space marines, spy skullduggery, military politics, and other shocking events. My only regret about The Deep Man is that there isn’t another book in this series to pick up!
*Inga’s background is explored in a free short story on the Baen website (Free Stories 2022) titled “Flops”. It is also highly recommended.