Skullduggery in the Imperium: The Deep Man by Michael Mersault
The Deep Man and The Silent Hand (Baen Books,
January 4, 2022, and October 3, 2023). Covers by Kurt Miller, unknown
I was at Barnes & Noble on Saturday, browsing the science fiction section, when an honest-to-god novelty caught my eye. A brand new mass market paperback! I thought they were virtually extinct, wiped out in the industry-wide shift to trade paperbacks and digital formats. It was titled The Deep Man, the debut novel by newcomer Michael Mersault, and was a reprint of a trade paperback released in January of last year.
It sounded pretty good, too. Something about “It Takes a Warrior to Relight the Galaxy!,” plus some breathless back cover copy about a Galactic Imperium, Myriad Worlds, mysterious nonhumans, mighty clans, an Honor Code, a hero in command of an outmoded, underequipped frigate, spies and assassins, and uncovering a “chilling plot to extinguish humanity’s light from the galaxy.”
Slow down there, deep dude. You had me at “It Takes a Warrior.” Am I the only one who misses paperbacks that fit in one hand? Time to kick the cats out of my big green chair, and read about relighting the galaxy! With humanity’s light, plain old laser fire, or whatever. Honestly, I’m not picky.
[Click the images for deeper versions.]
Back cover to The Deep Man
I’m already sold on The Deep Man, and my big green chair is waiting impatiently, but I still wanna know what the reviewers think. Forgive me, it’s force of habit.
Fortunately, the notices have been good. Ryan at The Unfinished Compendium had my favorite coverage:
The story takes place in a far-future empire long accustomed to peace. Saef Sinclair-Maru is a newly-minted captain in the Imperial Fleet. He is a prodigy of a famous but now downtrodden Family (think of them as factions) that emphasizes honor and preparation for war in a time in which those qualities are not needed…
The characters were uniformly compelling. There’s lots of them, which in many stories tends to lead to bland character arcs, but not here. Even the side characters, from Saef’s bumbling fop friend to a newly minted vested citizen on his first cruise, are given time to shine. Mersault did a masterful job making me care for each character. Inga, Saef’s protector (via overt and covert methods), would be a compelling main character in her own right. And the ship’s AI steals every scene it’s in – to say any more would ruin your enjoyment.
The Deep Man somehow fits all this meaty world-building and character development into a tale of breakneck action. There’s ship battles, space marines, spy skullduggery, military politics, and other shocking events. My only regret about The Deep Man is that there isn’t another book in this series to pick up!
You can get a taste for the world with “Flops,” a free story on the Baen website featuring Inga.
The sequel to The Deep Man, The Silent Hand, arrives in October. Here’s the description from the Baen website:
They said ten-year-old street urchin Inga was perfect for their purpose, taken from the squalor of Port City to the asteroid enclave, Hawksgaard, where she underwent the training and augmentation that transformed her. Maturing to full lethality even as war erupts among the Myriad Worlds, Inga is assigned to protect Family scion, Captain Saef Sinclair-Maru as he leads the fight against humanity’s merciless enemy.
The vessel: IMS Hightower
The mission: Rescue a trapped Legion force from the surface of Delta Three.
The crisis: Nothing is as it appears.
With Marines plummeting into surface combat, an orbital space battle raging, and assassins swarming within Hightower, the stakes could scarcely be greater, but in the midst of this tumult, treacherous revelations continue to unfold. A mysterious enemy emplacement, a vanished civilian population, the inexplicable powers suddenly unleashed: Each new facet of discovery creates a deadly path leading from Delta Three to the heart of the Imperium and the emperor himself. To seize any chance for victory — or even survival — Inga must accept the irrevocable course leading from the remnants of her own humanity to the fullness of the Silent Hand.
Here’s the complete publishing details. Links will take to you to sample chapters at the Baen website.
The Deep Man (352 pages, $16 trade/$9.99 paperback/$6.99 in digital formats, January 4, 2022) — cover by Kurt Miller
The Silent Hand (400 pages, $18 trade/$8.99 in digital formats, October 3, 2023) — cover uncredited
See all our coverage of the best new science fiction and fantasy series here.
I want to go to your Barnes & Noble! At mine, I’m always surprised whenever there’s a new science fiction paperback of any kind, mass market or trade!
Ugh…. that sounds dire! We are lucky to have a well-stocked store here in the suburbs of Chicago. It’s where I buy all my magazines.
Thanks for the mention, and I hope you enjoy the book!