Fiction Reviews


(2008) Eric Brown, Solaris, 7.99, pbk, 414 pp, ISBN 978-1-844-16649-7


Humanity has colonised a number of stars thanks to FTL jump drive and these colony worlds are starting to be economically active either generating their own exports or being tourist destinations. All this means that on Earth spaceport are big bustling places; they need servicing and they need policing. One such spaceport employee has his rudimentary psi ability artificially enhanced and is employed by the port's authorities to scan incoming craft for refugees. Of course Jeff Vaughan, like nearly all telepaths, finds his ability a curse as well as a blessing. He has to take a narcotic to shut out the noisy minds of the masses and get on as best he can in the seamier side of port life.

Then he stumbles across an off-world religious cult that seem to be somehow connected with some murders. Time to join up with his police friend to get to the bottom of it all.

Eric Brown is no stranger to noir-ish detective SF stories and he has made a fair fist of this sub-genre over the years. All his stuff that I have come across have been sound reads and this book is no exception. To that end I cannot do anything else as to recommend this stand-alone title to you and no doubt the other two books to come in the Vaughan series will be of a similar quality.

Having said that I am getting just a little tee'd off with Brown's mediocrity. He has written so much that by now I would have thought he would have honed his craft to rise above mere mediocrity and got rid of any of his novels' flaws. For example, there is one glaring coincidence in this one's plot - the protagonist's friend's sister coincidentally gets tied in to the protagonist's nemesis before she is aware of either - that could have so easily been orchestrated as being inevitable (or at least likely due to circumstance) and not unlikely chance: a writer evoking chance to drive a plot is being extremely lazy. And then there are the questions of the ships' jump drive: why do they need to leave the spaceport and then jump within sight of people? Why don't they just jump off the landing pad? Why, if they have such jump technology, is there not local teleportation? All these questions buzz around and are never answered.

Jonathan Cowie

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