RJ Ashby's first novel The Pirates of Aireon is a good old-fashioned `Ripping Yarn'. There's plenty of action, moments of suspense, a love story (but not too much) and a well-stocked larder of characters; all set in a very believable new world.
The hero, Jardan, is forced to find his own way in a world where it seems just about everyone wants to kill him. Jardan simply wants to be an Airman; the men (and women) who live for flying airships above the monster-infested depths of their ocean planet. A psychotic bounty hunter, a power- crazed empire-building gangster grandmother and her family, and fleets of pirates all believe that Jardan needs to die. In his attempts to stay alive, he becomes a thief and pirate, a gladiator and eventually, an inspirational leader.
The Pirates of Aireon is not a fantasy story in the style of Lord of the Rings or Avatar. There are no deep questions asked about good and evil, or discussions asked about the oppression of races, although the author has a good dig at the `politics' of business and religion. What the book does contain is a collection of lively and believable characters (wait until you meet `The Chairwoman', the deliciously-unpleasant gangster grandmother), set in a world that is both familiar and completely alien, and populated by people who have developed their own ideas about civilisation in the time they have been on the planet. If you like Anne McCaffrey's world of Pern, then think `dragon riders on steroids', and replace charming dolphins with terrifying human-hunting sea monsters, and you have RJ Ashby's The Pirates of Aireon.