The Orphan Ship is Sterling R. Walker’s first sci-fi book. Spaceships? Check. Humans living on other planets? Check. Advanced technology? Check. In other words, it has all the elements you’d expect in a sci-fi book. However, it also has something that you may not expect: heart.
Walker introduces and develops many wonderful characters that bring this story alive. For example, Deane Shepherd, captain of the spaceship Ishmael, is complex. She struggles between being the rational, take charge captain while at the same time, dealing with a significant loss in her life. And she is only one of several compelling characters in the story.
What is the story about? The blurb on the back of the book does a better job than I ever could. It reads:
“Stranded 225 million kilometers from home on Mars Station, cousins Jake O'Brien and Lorina Murphy are drawn into a fledgling effort to help the hundreds of abandoned street children who call the station home. Jake becomes a medical apprentice in an outreach clinic, while Lorina volunteers at a juvenile shelter. They soon discover that their efforts may be in vain because something much more serious than poverty plaques Mars Station.
Also stranded on Mars Station, ship's captain Danae Shepherd faces the difficult task of hiring replacement crew after an alien virus claims the lives of four in her employ, including her husband. She stumbles upon the same problem that has Jake and Lorina stumped: why are the homeless children disappearing without a trace?”
The book can be enjoyed for the surface level story. There is plenty of action, intrigue, and humor for The Orphan Ship to be satisfying. However, it is the deeper look at poverty, greed and inhumane behaviors which give the book weight—especially when Walker skillfully portrays how children are impacted.
Did I enjoy the book? Yes. Very much so. It was engaging with enough sci-fi gadgets to bring out the inner tech geek in me. But it was the characters and the story than kept me coming back for more.
It’s a clean read with no bad language or sex scenes. There is some violence, but it’s not graphic and it’s needed to fully give the impact this story requires.
While it can be read as a stand-alone book, it leave the door wide open for one, if not more, books—much to my delight.