First Instance by David Gowey

First Instance by David Gowey, self-published, July 2016, 118 pp., $0.99, Kindle edition. Buy.

Tony Vasquez is a junior lawyer eager to prove himself to his terrifying boss. When an electrician on the Moon punches someone and sets off an unprecedented legal case, Tony gets the chance of a lifetime. Along with his coworker Kavita, Tony visits the Moon to take on the case. With growing anti-UN sentiment characterizing the political turmoil of Earth in the 2100s, Tony and Kavita have to navigate the touchy subjects of national sovereignty and jurisdiction while fighting for their client’s fundamental human rights.

I loved the concept of First Instance, as I have a soft spot for science fiction that is actually a deep dive into a mundane Earth profession. The legal and political intrigue piqued my interest, and Tony’s voice was fun to follow along throughout. I particularly liked the focus on the consequences of the ruling—what kind of precedent will this trial set for humanity’s budding expansion into space?

Much as I enjoyed the concept and characters, my main issue with the story was on a worldbuilding level. I got tantalizing hints of what kind of future setting the story is in and what kind of changes have happened, but I didn’t get a solid grounding of that when the story opens. There’s decent description of the physical territory on the moon, but little about temporal setting or atmosphere. The talking heads floating in white space problem, essentially. The character voices also tend to blend together when discussing legalese, but I suppose that’s to be expected to some degree.

A sequel to First Instance is in the works. I’m curious to see how the open ending will be resolved.

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