I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
This book was the carrot I used to convince myself to finally finish Mazarkis Williams' The Emperor's Knife (not necessarily a bad book, but I cared less and less about the characters as the story progressed).
It has a stronger beginning than Hogarth's Mindtouch. I just hope all that action leaves enough room for the lovely character interactions that made Mindtouch so enjoyable. There's a definite Firefly feel to the story - Reese is kind of like Mal (long-suffering, quick-thinking captain who's perpetually short on cash), and Hirianthial is a little like Simon Tam (pretty, cultured doctor who unfortunately invites a lot of trouble).
I think Earthrise might take place at around the same time Mindtouch does. These books remind me why I enjoy reading series in which the stories take place in the same world but don't necessarily depend upon each other - each new work you read fills in little pieces of the world as a whole. Mindtouch explained details about the Pelted and their history that, so far, haven't been brought up in Earthrise, and Earthrise has introduced a new creature that was never mentioned in Mindtouch.