Jazz pianist Gus Kitka expected to spend his last moments on Earth playing the piano at the greatest farewell party of all time and possibly kissing rock star Violet Flaming before the last of humanity is destroyed forever by the Vanguards, super-powered robots from the dark. the heart of the cosmos, bent on destroying humanity for reasons unknown.
But when the vanguards arrive, the unthinkable happens – the mechanism that was supposed to kill Gus saves him. Suddenly, Gus’s swan song becomes humanity’s encore as he is chosen to join a small group of vanguard traitors and their pilots dedicated to saving humanity.
The end of the world is coming. This is what Gas (August) Kitko knows. He can spend his last days in a virtual palace in Monaco, and when the vanguards land, he thinks “that’s it”. But he doesn’t want to play the best show of his life. Only instead of killing Gus, the Vanguard saves him by dressing him in his “suit” and performing a mind-melding-like technique, linking Gus not only to the Vanguard, but to the unlimited font of human knowledge. It appears that some of the Vanguard are turning against their creators, and Gus has been drawn into a battle for which he is ill-prepared. Along with his hopefully romantic partner, Ardent Violet, Gus travels light years to protect his planet, and if he’s going to survive it, he’s going to have one hell of a gig.
The story is told from the alternating POVs of Gus and Flaming Violet. Gus is an absolutely fantastic character. He is just like you and me, normal. So when he’s rescued by a traitor vanguard and told he’s Earth’s only hope, he’s a bit shocked, to say the least. But when he is alone, he is steady, determined, strong… even if he doesn’t realize it. He’s witty and a little broken inside, but that just makes him the perfect person for the job, a man who knows loss, who was ready to die, but has now been given a new chance, maybe not for himself, but for humanity. Fiery Violet didn’t think the end of the world would end with their partner being embroiled in a galactic war with robots, but Arden knows how to handle the spotlight. They are fierce and steadfast, even in the face of multiple government agencies that want Gus to do what they say, stay out of line. They know what they have to do to save humanity, and as horrible as it is, they can’t let Gus do it alone. Neither character is perfect, Gus is extremely melodramatic and Ardent loves the attention too much, but when it comes down to it, they are perfect people saving humanity as a whole.
Now about the Robot. White describes each Vanguard in detail, giving names, weapons… reasons why we should fear them. It’s easy to see why humanity was ready to surrender when you understand how some of these Vanguards are made, and thanks to 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 “pilots” to access the wealth of knowledge within them, from martial artists to movie fight scenes, our characters used these know how to fight the vanguards and try to save the land.
I really didn’t know what to expect from this book, the few reviews I read said it was quirky and it definitely was, but it was also filled with a lot of heart that I wasn’t expecting. Greymalkin gave me strong Optimus Prime vibes, someone breaking away from their fellow vanguards to protect humanity and other vanguards not being so “friendly” to their pilots. The choice to start the story at what would normally be the end, the end of the world, the end of humanity, was done incredibly well, it added a whole boatload more emotion to the story and made what Gus and the rest of the vanguard traitors 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 it was used. You can see that they have a deep love for music of all kinds, and I especially loved the scene where all of our Vanguard pilots came together to try to do something together despite their cultural and musical differences.
If you like your stories a little quirky, action-packed, and lots of heart, look no further. This story is not for everyone. It’s fast-paced, a little crazy in parts, intense from page one, and a story that never stops. White did a great job of keeping up the pace and intensity while still giving us some slower moments to get to know and love their characters. The ending was brilliant and I’m incredibly excited to see where the story goes in book two.