(2009) Eric Brown, Solaris, £7.99, pbk, 414 pp, ISBN 978-1-844-16832-3
This is the last in the trilogy involving the telepath and (now) private detective Jeff Vaughn. Though it is part of a trilogy, this novel can easily be read as a stand-alone and if you like it you can go back and read the others.
Jeff Vaughn works on Bengal Station, a space port from which space craft come and go a short distance before jumping through hyperspace to other star systems. The book opens with Vaughn noticing he is being followed and very shortly after realising he is being hunted by an assassin. As is typical with Brown's novels, we are off at a cracking pace almost from page one.
Evading being killed, Vaughn is recruited by a multibillionaire to go to a far-flung world at the edge of the 'Expansion': the limits of human space. There he is to read the mind of a dead (dying) crew member of a previous expedition, that is in cryogenic suspension, to ascertain what happened to the aforesaid expedition.
However, the billionaire and other factions (nation governments no less) are aware that there may be something on this unexplored world of great value. It is a race to find out what it is and for the victor to get the spoils.
Eric Brown always turns out a reasonable gumshoe story laced with SF tropes. All well and good and I do not hesitate to recommend this particular offering as a casual beach read. Having said that, I still maintain what I have alluded to before (cf. my review of Necropath), I am just a little tee'd off with the author's continued mediocrity. With over thirty books now under his belt I do expect more from his novels: indeed, especially as his short stories have garnered him a couple of awards. This is actually more a compliment than complaint: Brown obviously can string a sentence together and does come up with futures that have interesting aspects. He also has previous. So by now I for one do, and longstanding genre readers should, expect more from the man.
Alright, so this book is mediocre, but there is nothing wrong with middle of the road reads. At least with Eric Brown you know what you are going to get. It may not be classy SF but is a good yarn that will keep an uncritical mind entertained, which sometimes is just what one wants if not needs. Recommended for detective noir-type SF readers in particular.
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