Jazz pianist Gus Kitko expected to spend his final moments on Earth playing piano at the greatest goodbye party of all time, and maybe kissing rockstar Ardent Violet, before the last of humanity is wiped out forever by the Vanguards–ultra-powerful robots from the dark heart of space, hell-bent on destroying humanity for reasons none can divine.
But when the Vanguards arrive, the unthinkable happens–the mecha that should be killing Gus instead saves him. Suddenly, Gus’s swan song becomes humanity’s encore, as he is chosen to join a small group of traitorous Vanguards and their pilots dedicated to saving humanity.
The world is ending. That’s what Gus (August) Kitko knows. He gets to spend his last days in a virtual palace in Monaco and when the Vanguards touch down he thinks ‘this is it.’ But he’s not willing to go down without playing the best show of his life. Only instead of killing Gus, the Vanguard saves him, encasing him in his ‘suit’ and performing a mind meld like technique linking Gus not only to the Vanguard, to but to an unlimited font of human knowledge. It seems like some of the Vanguards are turning against their creators and Gus has been dragged into a battle he is ill prepared for. Along side his, hopefully, romantic partner Ardent Violet, Gus travels light years to protect his planet, and if he survives this, he’s going to have to play one hell of a concert.
The story is told from the alternating POV’s of Gus and Ardent Violet. Gus is an absolute fantastic hero. He’s just like me and you, normal. So when he gets saved by a traitorous Vanguard and told that he is Earth’s only hope, he’s a little shocked to say the least. But if he is one thing it’s resilient, determined, strong…. even if he doesn’t realise it. He’s witty, and a little broken inside, but this just makes him the perfect person for the job, someone who knows loss, who was prepared to die but has now been given a new chance, maybe not for himself, but for humanity. Ardent Violet didn’t think that an end of world affair would end with their partner being roped into a galactic war with robots, but if there’s one thing Ardent knows it’s how to handle the spotlight. They are fierce and unbending, even in the face of multiple government agencies who want Gus to do what they say, not to stray from the line. They know what they have to do to help save humanity and, even though it’s terrifying, can’t let Gus do it alone. Neither character is perfect, Gus is extremely melodramatic and Ardent loves the spotlight a little too much, but when push comes to shove, they are the perfect people who save humanity as a whole.
Now for the Robot’s. White describes every single Vanguard in detail, giving them all names, weapons… reasons we should fear them. It’s easy to see why humanity was ready to give up when you realise how some of these Vanguards are made, and because of the descriptions we get some pretty epic battle scenes. Whether in Space or on land, White’s battles are epic in proportion and I loved how the traitor Vanguards had to use the ‘pilots’ to access the wealth of knowledge inside them, from master martial artists to film fight scenes, our characters used this knowledge to fight the Vanguards and try to save earth.
I didn’t really know what to expect going into this book, the few reviews I’d read had said it was quirky and it definitely was, but it was also filled with so much heart, something I didn’t expect. Greymalkin gave me big Optimus Prime vibes, someone breaking from their fellow Vanguards to protect humanity, with other Vanguards not being quite as ‘friendly’ to their pilots. The choice to start the story at what would usually be the end, the end of the world, humanity, was incredibly well done, it added a whole boat load more emotions to the story and made what Gus and the rest of the traitorous Vanguards were doing even more important. White’s use of music as a language, a communication device was incredibly well done and, as someone who loves their music, I loved the scenes where this was put to use. You can see they have a deep love for music of all kinds, and I especially loved the scene where all our Vanguard pilots came together to try and make something together, despite their cultural and musical differences.
If you like your stories a little quirky, filled with action and plenty of heart then look no further. This story isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s fast, a little crazy in parts, intense from the first page and a story that just never quite lets up. White did a terrific job of keeping the pace and intensity, whilst still giving us some slower moments to grow to know and love their characters. The ending was brilliant, and I’m incredibly excited to see where the story will go in book two.