Sci-Fi Review: ‘Pawn’ by Timothy Zahn

Three people are abducted by moth like aliens and drafted into a work crew on a mysterious alien space ship. One, a doctor, is recognized as a talent and moved to medical. Another is a small time thug who immediately starts looking for a way out. And the third is Nicole who learns she is something special, a ‘Sibyl’ who can talk to the ship. After settling in to their new scripted and completely mundane life the trio start breaking the rules a bit and exploring their new surroundings. What they find could put *movie preview voice* ‘all of humanity in danger.’

I have enjoyed a lot of Zahn’s books in the past. He may have been my favorite author in high school; starting with his Star Wars books and then on to most of his back catalog. He is at his best when writing characters who act as chess masters, plotting circles around everyone else in the books. It can get a bit trite and requires giving the characters a bit of plot armor (usually in the form of knowledge hidden from the reader) but I always found it to be entertaining as hell. This is not what we get in Pawn.

In Pawn we get a protagonist who stumbles along while others push her from place to place through three quarters of the book. She isn’t particularly intelligent, makes some mistakes that could prove costly and rather than fixing them is bailed out. Along the way she discovers one of the most ridiculous dystopian conspiracies around; one in which absolutely nothing holds up to the eye test. Then at the end of the book she learns her destiny as they relate to her still unexplained special mind powers.

This book really is a complete mess.

To point. There is no explanation for what makes ‘Sibyls’ special. The ships big secret is found by the newest abductees using the tools given to them but had been kept secret from all that came before. Humanities safety is founded on a big lie that could be cross checked any number of ways (but isn’t).  The conflict hinted at within the book’s blurb is one for control of the ship itself and it defies belief; who really has control of the ship seems to be completely dependent on what the plot needs at any given time.

If you are desperate to read a watered down hunger games on a spaceship, as seen from someone who not only isn’t involved but also is fairly uninterested then by all means pick up Pawn. It is a fast enough read chances are you won’t catch some of the plot holes until the end. But sadly this is not a book I can recommend with any higher praise than that.

2 Stars

Copy for review provided by publisher.

9 thoughts on “Sci-Fi Review: ‘Pawn’ by Timothy Zahn

  1. Oh no…I really was looking forward to this. The blurb makes it sound amazing. I’m going to listen to you and probably skip this one. I have way too many things to read to waste time.


    • Hate to be that guy. But skipping a bad book seems like a good plan. If you want to try the author go for The Icarus Hunt or Night Train to Rigel.


  2. *OUCH* 🙂
    Truth be told, I started frowning at “moth-like aliens”, yet I was ready to give the synopsis a chance.
    But plot holes you could drive a starship through and uninteresting characters might prove too much…
    Thanks for the warning 🙂


  3. Yiiiiikes. I gotta say, I did not expect much, but I thought for sure it would get at least 3 stars. Reading your review though, I can see why it didn’t work. Very messy. And I can’t say I’m hopping to read a watered down Hunger Games in space.


    • I was surprised too. First two star review since coming back to this game. Probably not the last though, these things occasionally happen.


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