The Rush's Edge

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Pub Date Nov 10 2020 | Archive Date Oct 09 2020

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With the help of his commanding officer, a genetically engineered ex-soldier fights back against the government that created him and others like him to be expendable slaves...

Halvor Cullen, a genetically-engineered and technology implanted ex-soldier, doesn't see himself as a hero. After getting out of the service, all he's interested in is chasing the adrenaline rush his body was designed to crave. Hal knows he won't live long anyway; vat soldiers like him are designed to die early or will be burnt out from relentlessly seeking the rush. His best friend and former CO, Tyce, is determined not to let that happen and distracts him by work salvaging crashed ships in the Edge.

Then Hal's ship gets a new crewmember - a hacker-turned-tecker named Vivi. As they become friends, Hal wonders if he's got a chance with a natural-born like her. Then on a job, the crew finds a sphere that downloads an alien presence into their ship...

Multiple clashes with the military force Hal and his crew to choose sides. The battle they fight will determine the fate of vats and natural-borns throughout the galaxy. Will they join the movement against the Coalition? What has invaded their ship's computer? And can there be a real future for a vat with an expiration date?

File Under: Science Fiction [ Toy Soldier | On the Brink | Against the Odds | Stars are Crossed ]
With the help of his commanding officer, a genetically engineered ex-soldier fights back against the government that created him and others like him to be expendable slaves...

Halvor Cullen, a...

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ISBN 9780857668646
PRICE $14.99 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

"The Rush's Edge" feels like it's non-stop action, but what got me, really got me, was the human element in this story. It's deeply compelling, and very hard not to care about the characters. The story is intriguing, and I'm hoping there will be more to come. I can't fault the writing either, which is warm and easy to read.

My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for an advance copy to review. This review is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.

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Excellent scifi with a good premise and execution. The author has a good imagination and put it to good use here. This one made me think a little.

I really appreciate the ARC for review!!

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Tango & Cash. Butch & Sundance. Riggs & Murtaugh. Everybody loves a classic buddy partnership, right? Well, get ready to add another pair to that list. Hal and Tyce are destined to win a place in the heart of anyone who should be fortunate enough to read The Rush’s Edge.

Plying their trade as scavengers on the edge of the galaxy, the pair are immediately imbued with a roguish charm, a la Malcolm Reynolds or Han Solo. But these two aren’t like those almost larger than life, archetypal characters; they’re altogether more believable and human, even if one of them (Hal) is a vat grown soldier with a compulsion to seek out fights. When “The Rush” hits Hal, it’s Tyce who is able to talk him down from his genetically engineered combat high, their years of serving together in the ACAS (Armed Forces of the Coalition of Allied Systems) allowing him a degree of control over him. There is a believable and consistently heart-warming camaraderie between the two of them, the kind of platonic love between male friends that just doesn’t get acknowledged nearly enough in most science fiction. It is instantly established that nothing can come between the two, years of trust immediately evident in the way they behave around each other.

Joining the two friends on their crew is Vivi, recruited by Tyce as their “tecker.” Much of the worldbuilding is done very organically in conversations with Vivi, as she learns about life on the Edge from the rest of the crew. There’s lots of detail about exactly how ACAS functions too, much of which comes out in conversations with and about Hal. As a vat, he has been grown, conditioned and surgically modified to be the perfect soldier, then cast out of the military after his seven-year term has ended. Whilst he is required by his biology to seek out action, and more than wiling to pick a fight, he does possess a strong moral compass of his own, and it tends to only be those who deserve his retribution - or are asking for a fight themselves - that end up on the receiving end of his fists.

There are plenty of said fights too, and not just in the form of punch ups. A salvage mission beyond the Edge attracts some unwanted attention for the crew, and it’s from this moment on that the action really ramps up, with shootouts in a variety of locales and even some space battles. There’s never a dull moment, and these scenes are always exciting and visceral. Injury detail is reasonably graphic without being ghoulishly so, and the staging of these scenes makes them easy to visualise, with settings not overburdened with lots of unnecessary description. Every fight or big set piece action moment really rattles along, with extremely satisfying payoffs. Thanks to the fantastic relationship building and characterisation between these scenes, the stakes always feel high too.

Hal and Tyce are particularly well developed as characters, but Vivi is also excellent - the exchanges between her and Hal, as they struggle to trust each other thanks to his conditioning and her recent past, are layered with meaning and emotion. Even Beryl the ship’s medic, who is more of a supporting character, gets some wonderful moments with the rest of the crew. This is arguably more Hal’s story than anyone else’s though, and it’s not only an interesting decision on Smith’s part to make “The Muscle” the centre of the story, it’s a winning one. Hal’s arc is excellent, and you’ll be desperately willing him on when he faces moments of doubt and indecision. His character is much deeper than first appearances might suggest, as he struggles with life outside the military on an almost daily basis, as well as fighting to control his violent urges. His loyalty to his crew is also touching and absolute, without ever feeling cloying.

The perfect combination of excitement and heart make The Rush’s Edge an easy book to recommend, and the loveable characters make it a hard book to leave behind. There is huge potential for more stories in this setting too, with plenty of foreshadowing and ideas which are just begging to be built on
This is a terrific book, which really feels like the start of something special.

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Ginger Smith’s debut novel The Rush’s Edge is an intriguing, oftimes explosive, adrenaline fuelled shot of science fiction. We follow Halvor Cullen, a genetically engineered supersoldier (or “vat”) as the novel’s heart-of-gold protagonist as he and his crew become slowly embroiled in a fight against the government that created him.

At first, I must admit I wasn’t particularly sold on Hal as the protagonist. Picking up this novel that touted the main character as “genetically engineered supersoldier” put me in mind of the type of action novels I tend to avoid. One could all too easily read him as your stereotypical gun-toting cliched action man – a person written to have obvious style and charisma, but minimal substance behind them.

Yet, further on into the novel I read, Smith surprised me. As much as I am a fan of sci-fi that’s a touch more weird, her exploration of each of the characters, their relationships, and the dilemmas they faced did much to draw me into this book.

I’m hugely fond of the found family trope, and this novel serves that up in spades. Each of the crew members aboard the Loshad are compelling in their own way (I really liked the dynamic between Tyce, the ship’s captain, and Hal as bound brothers-in-arms) and there’s even a bit of romance in there (for those who like such things as I do!).

The Rush’s Edge is a book with heart, an adrenaline fuelled character driven story that takes a poignant look at human relationships and the ethics of human rights. The “vats” are shown and treated by wider society and their makers as disposable freaks. They are bred for fighting, and their physiology means they live incredibly short lives compared to “nats” (natural born folk) – a tragic reminder of their existence.

This focus on vats as this “othered” group was a conflict that really intrigued me, one which I was delighted to see explored more as the novel pressed on. What happens when you push science too far? When you sideline the living, breathing soldiers once they’ve served a purpose rather than see them as people? There is a poignant, heartbreaking undercurrent to this action-packed novel that Smith makes sure to remind us of at every turn, which does much to deter you from thinking this is your stereotypical “man turns up and shoots things but in space” book.

Smith’s enthusiasm for and knowledge of the genre clearly radiates off the page. Exposition and rich details about the world are crammed in with abandon, with this world giving off hardened sci-fi, cyberpunk vibes with seedy underbellies, “teckers” (also known as hackers), assassins, and A.I. Whilst many of the tropes used are well-worn ones, that is perhaps to its credit. Fans of sci-fi books that are simpler to follow will like this, and it is a solid entry into the ranks for readers looking to get started in this genre.

Whilst the pacing was sometimes too erratic for my liking, slow in some places and faster in others bouncing from scene to scene, some readers might prefer that as a way to explore more angles in the story. In fact, there is much to be said about the hints dropped and explanation of other-worldly beings and its history (A.I named the Mudar who fought humanity until they’d lost) that it made me want to find out more.

Final verdict:

A solid debut sci-fi novel, and a great book to introduce readers to the genre, The Rush’s Edge is a thought-provoking, fast paced, heart-wrenching story. I’m excited to see more written by her, and thank you Angry Robot and NetGalley for the ARC!

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ACAS, the Armed Forced of the Coalition of Allied Systems, fill their ranks by growing their own soldiers in laboratories. Known as Vats, these lab-born men and women implanted with technology before they are ‘born’ and programmed for complete loyalty to ACAS, bravery and dedication to the cause. With heightened aggression, vat-soldiers are always spoiling for a fight and burn out before they reach forty.
Halvor Cullen is an ex-vat ACAS soldier explores the Edge with two other ex ACAS soldiers, his former CO, Tyce, and medic Beryl. Along with tecker, Vivi, they manage Hal’s addiction to adrenaline and aggression-focused nature by salvaging crashed ships. When a mission brings them into conflict with ACAS, they are saved by a group of ex-vat soldiers. They offer Hal the chance to fight back against those who rejected him. Accepting their offer leads Hal to question the nature of the tech implanted in his body and the real reason vats don’t live very long.
The Rush’s Edge is set after a great war against an AI force called Mudar where the vat-born soldiers were instrumental in the humans’ victory. Hal has served his time and doing the best he can to keep his aggression under control. Hal is a likeable character. While he might go from calm to fight in the blink of an eye, he is fiercely protective of his crew.
The bond between Tyce, Beryl, and Hal is tinged with sadness. They want to keep their friend alive as long as they can, and their world is overshadowed by the knowledge that Hal has about five years of life left. Yet, despite that undertone of sadness, there is acceptance and determination to do everything they can to fill those years with experiences and friendship. This determination increases when Vivi joins the crew and romance blossoms, something Hal would never have considered for himself before.
I feel The Rush’s Edge is a scene-setting novel. Smith builds the conflict between ACAS and the planets on the Edge of ACAS space at a good pace, weaving in the history and prejudice, so we care about the characters and feel their injustices, particularly the vats. The story centres on how Hal and other vats have been mistreated by ACAS made for a purpose then rejected after eight years of service. They are looked down on by nats, people born the traditional way. The vats serve, but they are not appreciated. Towards the end of the book, we discover there may be a way to change the early death sentence of the vats and to punish ACAS. As this hasn’t happened by the last page, I believe there is more to come, which makes me happy.
Reading like Firefly, The Rush’s Edge with fast, moving along at a breathless pace, going from event to event, and it’s lots of fun. An explosive debut from Ginger Smith and I can’t wait for the next instalment.

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Halvor Cullen (Hal) is a genetically engineered soldier, referred to as a “vat.” His former commanding officer, Tyce Bernon, is a “nat,” or natural born person. Ty is now Hal’s captain on the Loshad, and they make their living as salvagers. Hal isn’t one to back down from a fight, and the book opens with him jumping in to rescue a woman from a couple of guys who are up to no good. The woman, Vivi, is a tecker, and as their ship doesn’t currently have one, Ty offers her a job as part of his crew.

Ms. Smith does a good job of writing an entertaining story. There are a lot of pretty standard sci-fi elements here – alien lifeforms considered to be evil, a scrappy crew of misfits, an ominously looming government trying to squash a rebellion. But they work well together, and the use of those standard elements makes this a story that’s very approachable for the less seasoned sci-fi reader.

The story also isn’t afraid to touch on heavy subjects. For instance, the treatment of vats – they’re considered to be basically expendable once they’ve completed their military service. They’re also programmed by the military to experience the titular “rush,” which basically puts them into combat mode and makes them very aggressive. A lot of nats don’t trust them, don’t like them, don’t want them around. But Ty doesn’t see Hal as “just” a vat. Hal is his best friend, and he will fight for Hal’s well-being, even when it means saving Hal from himself. There’s also the Mudar, the feared aliens who supposedly came intent on destroying humanity. There is more to them than what our heroes initially know, and once they’ve made contact with a Mudar, they realize that just because the government condemns an entire species as evil doesn’t make it so.

This was a fun read. There’s a touch of romance, lots of action, and tech toys aplenty on board the Loshad. Good guys versus bad guys. An epic quest is hinted at as the story closes, and I hope this means Ms. Smith will revisit this universe. My only question: who was actually trying to kidnap Vivi at the beginning of the story? If that question was satisfactorily answered, I missed it.

If you’re a regular sci-fi reader, The Rush’s Edge is delightful. If you’re new to the genre and want to give it a try, The Rush’s Edge is a good place to start. Either way, read with confidence!

Disclaimer: I received an advance reader copy of this book from NetGalley and Angry Robot. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books that I don’t actually like.

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La portada de The Rush’s Edge me llamó la atención desde un principio y la sinopsis disponible también me pareció atractiva, así que decidí darle una oportunidad a esta autora con su primera novela. Lo cierto es que esta publicación de Angry Robot no es muy novedosa en su planteamiento, pero está escrita con gracia y aunque camine por rutas ya transitadas, resulta agradable leerla.

En el universo que ha creado Ginger Smith, hay humanos de primera y de segunda categoría, porque algunos son creados ex profeso como carne de cañón, con una esperanza de vida bastante limitada y condicionamiento genético para la búsqueda de un chute de adrenalina. Si esto os trae a la cabeza la palabra «replicante» no iréis muy desencaminados.

Esta injusticia subyacente al modelo de vida humano es la fuerza motor que impulsa hacia delante toda la narración. Cuando estos soldados terminan su periodo obligatorio de servicio en la guerra, han de luchar contra sus propios instintos, en un tratamiento muy similar al que hemos visto en otras ocasiones con el estrés post traumático de los veteranos militares, pero corregido y aumentado por las necesidades inherentes a su morfología.

Lo que me convenció definitivamente con The Rush’s Edge fueron los personajes, ya que aún siendo un poco maniqueos exhalan empatía por los cuatro costados y resulta muy fácil encariñarse con ellos. Es que son buenas personas y esto no es tan fácil de encontrar en la ciencia ficción habitualmente. También es de agradecer el giro un tanto inesperado que provoca la aparición de un nuevo factor en la nave en la que transcurre la mayoría de la acción, para añadir algo de sabor a una novela correcta aunque un tanto plana.

Las escenas de acción están bastante bien narradas, tanto los enfrentamientos cuerpo a cuerpo como las escaramuzas espaciales. Y también es muy de agradecer que se trate de una obra auto conclusiva, aunque la autora ha dejado varias tramas que pueden ser continuadas si así se requiriera. Nos encontramos por tanto ante una novela que no cambiará la literatura, pero que tampoco lo pretendía.

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Thank you netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This is a well written sci-fi romance novel. Hal is a geneticaly modified ex marine who alongside his friend Tyler rescue a hacker running from a crazy, abusive ex. They form a crew and seek to bring their brand of justice to the world. Hal has some definite issues with violence and PTSD but somehow they make it work. Very realistic futuristic world building.

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Is there such a thing as romantic military science fiction? If not, Ginger Smith is inventing the field. In this dystopic, far-flung star empire, human soldiers are too costly to waste in battle, so technologically enhanced vat-grown troops have become the era’s cannon fodder. With accelerated growth, limited life expectancy, and nearly unbreakable psychological conditioning, they’re considered expendable during their term of service and disposable afterward. One such retired vat soldier, Hal, has found sanctuary in a salvage ship captained by his former CO, Ty. Hal, like other vats, is addicted to the overwhelming adrenaline rush of combat, which will rapidly burn him out, but Ty has been able to talk him down from the worst episodes. Into this tight ship family comes Vivi, a young tech expert fleeing an abusive relationship. As her mind and body heal, she and Hal grow closer, although Hal is still subject to being triggered into the “rush,” and each bout shortens his already fast-shrinking span. Various adventures ensue, pitting this small crew against the Coalition Powers That Be (and their fear of the growing power of vat-grown soldiers). The gradually developing love story is interwoven throughout, neither hijacking the action nor feeling like a pasted-on element. It’s integral to how humans bond to another, how trust and devotion only heal the past and forms the foundation of hope. It’s a lovely tale, at times page-turning drama, at times heartfelt, always reflecting what makes a person and what are the limits of personal autonomy.

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