In Vijaya Schartz's intriguing science fiction universe, The Garrison is a high-security prison on a moon-sized ice planet. The only other thing that happens on this planet is
the mining of a drug called Styx; the company which owns both the prison and the mines keeps the prisoners under control by forcing them to eat Styx. The galaxy is inhabited by many alien species, and most of them seem to be humanoid.
Rhonda Alendresis is a new medical guard in the Garrison, and she has her own secret reasons
for working there. When she discovers that all of the civilian mining company support personnel
have abandoned the place without explanation and taken all spaceworthy vessels with them,
she alerts the other guards. They find out that the Garrison's nuclear reactor has been damaged in recent earthquakes.
It is in danger of meltdown and has already malfunctioned enough to release some of the most dangerous prisoners and
shut down the delivery of food and Styx. Soon, they learn that the reason the civilians
left is that the planet cannot support the heavy mining and is tearing itself
apart - the reason for the spate of quakes.
Captain Cole Riggeur is determined to keep his guards safe and the prisoners behind bars. He somewhat disapproves of Rhonda's
casual civilian attitudes toward regulations. However, she is the only guard available,
so he takes her with him on a frantic descent to the lowest level to manually repair the reactor.
They descend quickly through to the nineteenth level and repair the reactor, but
many inmates are loose and want revenge and freedom. The meanest and strongest of them is Tomar, who bears a personal grudge against Cole. Tomar is a Monack, a shape-shifting species
that can heal quickly and endure many wounds. Tomar is also a follower of the Old Ways,
by which the strongest male rules by killing and eating his opponents - and he has killed over 200 sentient beings already.
Tomar and his gang of thugs, who are suffering from the withdrawal symptoms, ambush Cole and Rhonda and take Cole prisoner. Rhonda evades capture and tries to rescue Cole, but he has been so badly hurt that he cannot move. Communications to other guards are mostly down, but she manages to send a distress signal. Two
guards manage to find Rhonda, and together they rescue their wounded Captain. Then they have to make their way up through the inmate-infested levels, through earthquakes and the rising heat from the melting planet's core, and find a way to get off the planet. Through it all Rhonda and Cole develop trust, respect, and feelings for each other. Rhonda has to face her fear of darkness and enclosed places, and Cole has to face his long-time mistrust of civilians and women.
There are three point-of-view characters: Rhonda, Cole, and Tomar (although Tomar is seen less than the other two). Rhonda is a brave and resourceful character but not fearless or indestructible. Cole is more reserved, but that comes across as understandable
given his past and profession.
The Garrison: Lockdown moves at a swift pace with plenty of twists. Some characters remain one-dimensional, but the book does not have enough pages to really develop them. Also, Tomar seems to be the only prisoner who does not suffer withdrawal symptoms, which is a little too convenient. The romance develops a bit too quickly, and when Rhonda starts to feel attraction towards Cole, he is not himself because he is wounded or drugged. Otherwise, The Garrison: Lockdown is
a quick, enjoyable science-fiction romance.