The Protectorate trilogy

I haven’t been posting much lately, mostly due to complications from a dental procedure. Often when sick and in pain, I fall back on entertainment to pass the time, and Megan O’Keefe’s Protectorate trilogy turned out to be what I needed: a long epic tale with interesting concepts and compelling characters.

In the far future (at least 3500 years), humanity has colonized the stars using a type of gateway technology that allows instant travel across interstellar distances. However, gates cannot be set up just anywhere. They require the right conditions, so there are systems closer to the center of the gate network, often with numerous gates to other star systems, and more dead end systems on the periphery, where a gate to the system is possible, but no other gates can be set up to other systems.

The gate technology is a closely guarded secret, very closely guarded. In fact, the entire structure of Prime Inventive, the interstellar government that oversees this civilization, seems designed to protect that secret. The schematics for the gates and related technologies are recorded on chips implanted in humans called Keepers. Each Keeper’s chip only has a portion of the schematics, so that several need to come together for a new gate to be built. The Keepers are protected by the Guardcore, an elite force of soldiers who spends their lives in armor, Mandalorian or Darth Vader style, in anonymous seclusion.

Scientific research into any area that might be related to gate technology is heavily proscribed, with severe penalties for non-compliance, the excuse being that the technology is dangerous and must be closely regulated. The result is that areas like nanotechnology, certain forms of artificial intelligence, and other technologies are strictly constrained.

Of course, not everyone is happy about these restrictions, so “fringe” groups exist, attempting to make progress in these areas where they can. But they are under constant threat of discovery and suppression by the regime.

The story begins in one of the dead end systems, with a war between an inner planet called Icarion, looking to break away from the Prime regime, and the local Prime outpost in the outer system called Ada Prime. Ada services and guards the system’s sole gate.

Sanda Greeve is a Prime soldier who awakens in the medical bay of an Icarion ship that appears to be abandoned. The ship is run by an AI which calls itself “Bero”. Unlike Prime’s AIs, which are designed to never have a personality, Bero seems to be a full general intelligence with an emergent personality. But Bero became sickened by what the Icarions were doing and what they wanted it to do, so it rebelled against its crew.

Bero informs Sanda that she has been in stasis for over two centuries, and that both Icarion and Ada are gone, destroyed by a weapon Icarion used which inadvertently resulted in the destruction of both planets, as well as the gate. Bero’s ship has a ramscoop, which should enable them to travel to the nearest settled star system, but it will take 75 years.

Realizing she needs equipment so she can be in stasis for much of that trip, Sanda begins looking through the wreckage of the system, and comes across another soldier named Tomas Cepko, apparently an Icarion, who has also been frozen for two centuries. Bero instantly distrusts Cepko, but Sanda isn’t sure, and begins trying to work with him, while watching him closely.

Meanwhile, a couple of centuries earlier, her brother Biran Aventure Greeve, is just graduating as a Keeper when Icarion begins its attack. Biran is devastated when Sanda goes missing after a battle, and vows to do anything to find her. His efforts get him into trouble, and then unexpectedly thrust into a leadership position, where he has to fulfill his wartime responsibilities while also doing everything he can to see that Sanda is found.

In yet another thread in a different star system, Jules Valentine leads a team of thieves in a heist of a warehouse for drugs, but stumbles into something much bigger, a conspiracy reaching into the highest levels of Prime society.

It’s difficult to go much further without getting into major spoilers. All I’ll say is that these threads eventually converge in unexpected ways. The plot twists start early and come fairly often, eventually revealing the dark secrets at the heart of Prime civilization. There are lots of epic space battles and fighting in between.

A warning. These books have a lot of interior monologue, character introspection, and I do mean a lot. Anytime the characters go to do anything of significance, it’s preceded by several paragraphs of thinking about their life. Sometimes this happens in the middle of a conversation. A reasonable amount of this type of interior monologue is necessary to give us a connection with the characters, but the amount in these books often seemed like overkill, with the result that it feels like O’Keefe spends 600 pages telling what might have been a 400 page story. Tastes vary, and many will lap up this kind of thing, but it detracted from my enjoyment of an otherwise excellent story.

Something else worth mentioning, O’keefe portrays a society where same sex relations and non-binary genders are seen as normal and virtuous. That’s not unusual these days, but the amount in these books may turn some people off, although others will see as a major strength.

As noted above, I enjoyed this series. O’Keefe is skilled at creating compelling characters and page turner situations. It was exactly the type of feel-good fiction I needed over the last several weeks. If epic space opera is your thing, these books are well worth considering.

9 thoughts on “The Protectorate trilogy

  1. I recognize the cover to Chaos Vector. Amazon keeps recommending that book to me, which seems odd now that I know it’s book two in the series. This does sound interesting to me, though extensive inner monologues are kind of a pet peeve of mine. I get a little annoyed when multiple pages go by and the only “action” is thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a peeve of mine too, particularly when it’s in the middle of a conversation or fight scene. O’Keefe doesn’t do it in fight scenes (that I can recall) but does in some conversations. I still enjoyed the story, but felt it would have been better with some moderation on that front.

      I think a lot of authors use all that thinking to sneak in exposition, in lieu of the infamous “As you know Bob…” dialog. But often it ends up feeling repetitive. Some of that may have come with how fast I burned through these books.

      You have to watch those Amazon recommendations. If you do read the series, you definitely want to start with Velocity Weapon. These books are really one continuous story, not standalone sequels.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry to hear about the dental complications. I hope you’re all fixed now? (Anything having to do with dental work gives me the creeps).

    I wonder if the lengthy interior monologue has something to do with genre expectations and trying to meet a certain page count. I often find Sci-Fi feels too long ( Anathem comes to mind…I wanted to cut that nearly in half). That said, I tend to like interior monologue, but few can get away with lengthy pontifications.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately still struggling with the complications. I won’t creep you out with the details, but it’s been going on for a while now and is really weighing me down physically and mentally.

      I wondered the same thing about whether the goal was to fill out to a certain word count. But I suspect O’keefe is just writing what she likes to read, allowing the reader to inhabit a great deal of the inner life of the characters. And to your point, a lot of people do like it. I do too, to an extent. My frustration begins when it gets noticeably repetitive and slows down the story too much. But definitely a matter of taste.


      1. So sorry to hear that, and that it’s still ongoing. I hope they’re at least giving you good drugs to deal with the pain.

        I hear you on getting frustrated with repetitiveness. I wouldn’t care for that either. Except for the occasional reminder here and there where it seems like readers might actually forget, that’s the kind of thing that should’ve been edited out.

        I hope you get your problem resolved quickly and get to feeling better soon!


        1. Thanks. At this point, the pain itself isn’t that bad, but it’s affecting my sinuses and making me sick, and that’s the bad part. I keep being told that this is very rare, which is not what you want to hear in these situations.

          I burned through these books relatively quickly, so it’s possible the repetitiveness was more apparent than it would have been if I’d only been reading a small bit every night. Still, a lot of people burn through books, and I wonder if reminders would be as necessary if the book was shorter without all the reminding.


          1. Good point about length. And anyway, a reminder shouldn’t be super noticeable. I have quite a few characters in my novel, more names than I would be able to remember (but I’m bad with names), so I just include tags like “Rory, the college president” so readers aren’t stuck wondering who’s who.

            I actually had a dental nightmare the other night. I don’t remember much about it except it was my mom dealing with the pain, and no one was even thinking about taking her to the dentist. Anyway, I hear you on not wanting to be told how rare your issue is. I think that’s the dentists way of saying, “don’t be afraid to come back”. Yeah right.

            Well I hope you feel better soon.


          2. Thanks.

            I think that’s an ideal reminder. Short, sweet, and integrated with another point. It’s when the character thinks about something for several paragraphs, when they thought about the same thing maybe a hundred pages earlier, that I start getting restless.

            Reminders, or any information, also feel less ponderous if they can be relayed with dialogue. But everyone these days is afraid of looking like they’re abusing dialogue. I’m currently reading Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Final Architecture series. I enjoy Tchaikovsky’s stories, but his pacing always feels ponderous to me. In the second book, he reminds us about events in the first book with exposition, but in the context of one character telling another about those events. I didn’t understand why he didn’t just show the conversation (or at least snippets of it). It felt like a missed opportunity to make the story feel more snappy.

            Of course, that assumes he cares about snappiness. I’m fully aware that tastes vary on this.


          3. I say you can get away with a lot so long as it’s short. The longer you go, the harder it is to justify.

            Sent from my iPhone


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