Set an indeterminate number of years in the future, the story is told entirely from the third-person point of view of Carr Luka, a 17-year-old “zeroboxer’ of exceptional gifting. His career has just taken off, and he’s attracting a lot of attention—some good, some jealous, and some potentially dangerous.
The worldbuilding is engrossing and remarkably well thought out across the board. The science isn’t so out-there as to seem mystical, the use of physics is logical, and the organic progression of sporting events adapted to zero-g environments makes perfect sense (from both a practical and human nature standpoint.) The layering goes deeper still, including sociological elements that enrich the plausibility of Lee’s imagined future—from the overall mingling of ethnicity and availability of genetic modification, to the geopolitical conflicts between Earth and Mars, to marriage being re-defined into 5-year incremental contracts that participants may simply choose not to renew.
The highlights of this book are definitely the technical and behind-the-scenes aspects of mixed martial arts (with a zero-gravity twist), along with a keen conveyance of branding and marketing practices. The author has a crisp and competent writing style, with a real strength for action scenes. The metaphors are solid and the pacing moves along at a captivating clip for the first half of the book.
On the downside:
The romantic elements are a bit lacking and the base emotional connectivity seems to take a far backseat to the sport-centric plot. The smoothness of the read shifted at about the same time the legitimacy of Carr’s genetic background became a point of conflict. For some reason Carr never inquires nor seems curious about the identity of his biological father—and the characterization of his mother feels strangely lacking in depth. As the story progresses, Carr himself becomes increasingly difficult to sympathize with and the book becomes easier to put down. Risha and Carr come together without much sensuality or buildup of tension, and didn’t present as a couple this reader felt any particular need to root for. I had a lot of trouble understanding why Carr would choose to keep his “big secret” from the woman he not only (allegedly) loves, but who is best qualified to help him strategize the handling of his precarious situation.
Content Note: To readers and parents who may be concerned, this book sometimes feels as though it's skirting the line between mature YA and New Adult. The f-word is used with some frequency—although nothing beyond what one could realistically expect from a sports setting. Sex is depicted (although not graphically) as something of a casual expectation, with no mention or consideration paid to contraception.
Overall, this is a refreshingly true sci-fi read that takes its research seriously. You'll want to keep an eye on this author.