Edie Sha'nim is a cyphertech, someone with "wet tech" implanted in her body that allows her to directly plug-in and talk to biocyph seeds, the "machines" that terraform alien worlds into Earth-like habits for humans. At story's beginning, she is working for the Crib, your typical "evil" empire, a la, Firefly and others. The Crib has a monopoly on terraforming technology. The Crib not only has the technology to make worlds just like home, they also hold the tech necessary to keep the worlds livable. This means colonists on new worlds must periodically come up with an exorbitant amount of money to keep their world up and running.
Obviously, this doesn't go over well with the colonists.
Edie is kidnapped by space pirates who are working with Rebel Fringe colonies. The pirates want Edie to reprogram biocyph seeds so they no longer need the Crib's reactivation. Unfortunately, their plan involves Scarabaeus, a planet whose dangerous ecosystem is Edie's (unintentional) making. Making matters worse, is her bodyguard, an embittered P.O.W. serf named Finn, who had been bonded to her through a kind of "wet tech" telepathic connection. If she dies or gets too far from Finn, the connection will kill him. At stake is not only her freedom, but Finn's life.
I liked Edie. Despite her angsty origins--orphan halfbreed child of an oppressed minority--she retains her humanity and compassion.
As heroes go, Finn isn't all that original. In fact, he's the kind of guy who's become a staple in many romance novels--strong, silent, gruff. He has enough of a sly sense of humor, however, to slide into "likable." Gimmee a sense of humor, and I'll forgive just about any fault. But at times, all that grumbley, manly-ness gets a little old.
Edie and Finn work well together with one exception. At one point, Edie wants Finn to "help" another character. This character has brutalized Finn and treated him as less-than-human. It's easy to understand why Finn wouldn't want to help this character. Edie, however, gets self-righteous, scolding him for his lack of mercy. Yeah, I get it. She's supposed to be acting as his conscience. But the "conscience is a scold" archetype never works for me. Especially since it usually involves the female character acting like a shrill harpy and ignoring the male's feelings.
But this was the novel's only misstep (more of a pet peeve of mine, than anything). The world building is solid. There's plenty of slow-building sexual tension between Edie and Finn, but the romantic elements are well balanced by the other plot elements.
The novel ends at a point which begs a sequel and that's vaguely reminiscent of S.L. Viehl's StarDoc series (character who will be pursued across the universe while on a mission of mercy, so to speak). I'm looking forward to the next book.