Fiction Reviews

Shadow Captain

(2018) Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, 18.99, 426pp, ISBN 978-0-575-09063-7


This is a hard-ish SF space opera set in a far-future that has all the trappings of 17th century swashbuckling pirate tropes. Instead of plying the oceans in galleons, shadow Captain sees humanity carouse around the Solar System in solar sail driven craft landing not at coastal or island ports but space stations or ancient objects (baubles) shielded by very old, mysterious technology (which may or may not be of alien origin).

This is the follow-up to Revenger and the story pics up where we left off with the Ness sisters, having taken control of Bosa's ship they need fuel and so had off for one of Bosa's caches.  This happens to be an uncharted shielded bauble.  Be assured there will be trouble.

As a follow-up to Revenger, Shadow Captain certainly delivers and we learn a little more of this universe's, the Solar System's history.  I don't want to go into any more detail lest they be spoilers but check out my previous review of Revenger.  Suffice to say that newcomers should not start with Shadow Captain but to get Revenger first; if you like that then you will like Shadow Captain.

One thing though, by the end of Shadow Captain, matters are clearly set up for a possible third book.  We might find out about the source of the quoin currency and the aliens who seem to be behind the cycles of rise and falls of human civilizations.  Indeed, while I can suspend rationality and buy into this whole piracy trope thing, I do wonder whether Reynolds has a rational explanation for it all?  I would not be surprised.  And even if he has not, there's so much to the Revenger / Shadow Captain scenario that I can barely wait.

Jonathan Cowie


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