(2010) R. J. Frith, Tor (UK), £16.99, hrdbk, 325pp, ISBN978-0-230-74891-0
In the far future, humanity has spread across space and colonised other worlds. This has been made possible through jump-gates, which can be used to cross distances in space. The ruling government, the Planetary Heads of State controls all scientific progress, to hold back advances.
Frank Pak, captain of the Nova, accepts a job to hunt down Jake Jones, an escaped prisoner. He manages to track him down and capture him. However, as a child, Jones was the survivor of experiments on his mind and involving a captured alien species. This happened to children collected on a ship called the Bliss. As the only survivor, Jones is in demand, from the government and also by the forces that want to start a revolution.
There are a lot of familiar elements in this narrative; the ex-military caption of a ship, involved in dubious errands; the hunted figure with hidden special powers; the new method of crossing interstellar distances; and an organisation conducting experiments on children with aliens. But there is nothing wrong with expanding on existing ideas. The sections dealing with Jonesí childhood are the strongest in the novel.
However, there is the sense that these elements are never quite used up to their full potential. The narrative seems to lack as much excitement, as you feel could have been derived from this situation. The action scenes always have the sense of being turned down somehow. I had the feeling that the stakes and odds could have been raised more in the narrative. It is hard to care very much about the characters involved. They do not come across as distinctive enough. The world of the story does not feel different enough from any other space opera universe. The planets, societies and the technology just seem too conventional. There is the sense that the author is pulling back on what they could do with their ideas. When this happens, the potential of the elements, within the narrative are lost.
This leads into a problem with the structure of the narrative. By the end of the novel, the narrative is still leading up to a conflict that has not happened. The reason for this appears to be so that the story can be carried on in another novel. However this narrative within this one, for me, did not seem strong enough to justify being padding out this much. If the story was limited to just one volume, the author might have felt more confident to produce something striking.
See also Jonathan's take on the The Nemesis List.
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