Fiction Reviews


Penumbra

(1999) Eric Brown, Millennium, £5.99/$9.99, pbk, 346pp. ISBN 1 85798 592 3

In the 22nd century humanity has spread out to the stars, but few alien intelligences have been found. Following a near-miss accident in space, orbital tug pilot Bennett gets a contract to fly an interstellar mission to explore a distant world, Penumbra, beyond known space. A previous unmanned probe detected signs of intelligence, but will this expedition be one of first contact?

Meanwhile on the streets of Calcutta (now also a major space port), Lieutenant Rana Rao is promoted to the murder squad and her first case is a particularly puzzling series of killings. Somehow these crimes and the strange new world are linked.

Eric Brown has crafted an enjoyable read (even if his orbital astronomy and exobiology requires a little brushing up). While this book contains nothing remarkable, has no new big concept nor manage to hold any dramatic sense of wonder for any length of time, the plot is competently assembled and told. It is a pleasant yarn reminiscent of many titles of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Indeed if one had to make comparisons one might say that Brown’s stamping ground is close to that of the late Bob Shaw’s. Eric Brown is probably worth keeping an eye on. If he continues like this you will certainly not be bored, and who knows one day he may come up with something really spectacular.

Jonathan Cowie


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