Kenai, by Dave Dobson

The Book

Pages: 395
Age Group: Adult
Published on 6/8/2023
Publisher: Self-Published
Military Sci-Fi
Available on:


A planet steeped in mystery...

Jess Amiko is long past her days as a space marine, with all the glory of that time tarnished beyond repair by what came after. Trying to rebuild from the ashes, she's taken a job as a security guard on Kenai, a lonely world far from the Council systems. It's supposed to be easy duty - quiet and peaceful, on a docile world with no real threats, watching over an archeological dig at a site built by a race long vanished.

Betrayed and attacked by forces unknown, and finding that nothing on Kenai makes sense, Jess is plunged into a desperate fight for survival that leads her deep into the mysteries of Kenai's past, and deep into the hardship and paradox the planet imposes on all who call it home.  

My Review

Kenai is an unconventional military sci-fi novel, written by Dave Dobson, with interesting twists on classic tropes. What starts as a classic survival story, following the retired soldier Jess Amiko in a struggle to escape from Kenai after being attacked, ends being transformed into a deeper plot, leading us to discover more about Kenai and its natives.

Jess Amiko accepted a job as security guard on Kenai, something that seemed to be easy, just taking a look over an archeological dig; but when she's attacked by unknown forces, she will discover that there isn't anything that makes sense on the planet. A plot that initially screams military sci-fi, greatly executed, but which leads to a bigger story, exploring the paradox that surrounds the planet and its inhabitants, with Amiko playing the role of an alien among the natives.

We have a book with two parts clearly separated, really different in pacing; the first part where Amiko is struggling to survive is full of action, tension, difficult situations that are also clashing with her past (which Dobson introduces by using flashbacks), and the second one is much more investigative, around the curse that is over Kenai and her inhabitants. And I must say that despite being quite difficult to execute, because adding temporal distortions to a plot can end being terrible, it is solved in smart ways.

Pacing wise, we can also divide the novel into two sections. In the first one, all is really frenetic once it starts, but it devolves into a more contemplative second section, which might feel dragging sometimes, as in comparison, it's much slower.
A detail that I appreciate is how short the chapters are, contributing to the "one more chapter" impulse.

Kenai is great science-fiction book, a self-contained story which is quite enjoyable to read. A novel that you could comp as Edge of Tomorrow meets Avatar, executing some of these tropes greatly. If you are looking for a military sci-fi with a big plot, give this book a try.

The Author/s

Dave Dobson

Dave Dobson

A native of Ames, Iowa, Dave loves writing, reading, boardgames, computer games, improv comedy, pizza, barbarian movies, and the cheaper end of the Taco Bell menu. Also, his wife and kids.

Dave is the author of Snood, Snoodoku, Snood Towers, and other computer games. Dave first published Snood in 1996, and it became one of the most popular shareware games of the early Internet. He’s recently published some puzzle card games in the Doctor Esker’s Notebook series.

Dave taught geology, environmental studies, and computer programming at Guilford College for 24  years. He does improv comedy at the Idiot Box in Greensboro, North Carolina. He’s also played the world’s largest tuba in concert. Not that that is relevant, but it’s still kinda cool.

Flames Over Frosthelm was Dave’s first novel, released in 2019. He followed it a year later with Traitors Unseen and The Outcast Crown, then Daros in 2021 and The Woeling Lass in 2022 and Got Trouble in 2023. He’s currently at work on another sci-fi novel and a second contemporary thriller.