Jordan McKell takes a job as captain aboard a strange ship that needs to get to earth. As a man with a good number of debts he couldn’t turn the job down, despite having a contract with a large criminal organization smuggling something in his own ship. Thinking quick he sends his iguana faced alien partner on the original run and joins the quickly thrown together crew aboard his new charge, The Icarus. Very quickly Jordan and the crew learn that the Patth, and alien race with a near monopoly on shipping, are willing to stop at nothing to get the McKell and the Icarus. The hunt is on!
Zahn is an author who can always be counted on to give an entertaining, if overly familiar, reading experience. While he is probably best known for his tie-ins at this point, he has written a good number of sci-fi books and series set in their own settings. And almost all of them follow a familiar pattern. Action based thrillers, a heavy dose of mystery, and a shadowy mastermind playing chess with all the other players in the game.
No disappointment here if it is what you are looking for, and as I needed a quick little read this was perfect. Though set in space the thriller aspect kept me excited. Trying to figure out who was responsible for a murder, who may be a mole, what the Icarus was really carrying, and of course, HOW ARE THEY GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS ONE was where the fun lay. The economic nature of the prize, and of the warfare, is a nice change of pace from so many others. The cost of travel precludes large scale war in this universe; instead power is influenced by trade. And once in a while I enjoy watching all the pieces fit together nicely at the end. No loose threads, and while some may have come together a little too conveniently, this is the type of book I forgive it in. The ending was abrupt and full of “oh ya right” type of moments, but it caught me by surprise the first time I read it (though that was some time ago).
Outside of the easy convenient outs that were taken at times the biggest flaw in the book is surprising. You see, I had thought this book was older than it really is, and really it was published in 1999. So why the hell is our hero surprised to see a woman as part of the ship’s crew? Are we actually less advanced in the far future? And while a few of the alien species were very cool and well designed (neuro-linked ferret outriders for the win!), I am not a big fan of humans being the only species with diversity within the ranks. I expect it in my old Star Wars books, but can’t alien species show a less than unified front once in a while too?
Oh well, the book was just what I needed at the time. A small hangover after the excellent Ancillary Justice was to be expected and I knew better than to try anything new for a bit. Good fun, lots of adventure.