(2001) Robert Reed, Orbit £6.99, pbk, 502pp, ISBN 1-84149-078-4
The Ship is vast. Next to nothing is known about it, other than that it definitely originated from outside the galaxy. Near immortal humans have taken control of it, and now it is home to a thousand alien races who have paid for passage around the galaxy. At its centre there is a world, Marrow, unlike any we have ever known, that contains a dark secret. Humanity's best, the Captains of the Ship, are sent to investigate, but an accident strands them in the most hostile of environments, and the black world begins to kill them. Can they make it back to the Ship, and will they discover its purpose before everyone is destroyed?
This book has been much praised, for the most part rightly so. However, just about anyone with a brain and some experience of SF should be able to work out the central mystery within the first few tens of pages and, in that respect, the book is a bit disappointing. (I won't spoil it for those who can't) That aside, this is an entertaining book that should engage even the most jaded of imaginations. Reed's prose is very readable and his characters are delightful, though the star of the book has to be the Ship. This was the first time I had encountered Reed, though we are told that he has authored "over half a dozen" SF books. Pity his publishers couldn't be bothered to let us know what they are… I'd recommend this, with some reservations.
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