Welcome to the Cernee system, home of a backwater collection of habitats and humanity where freedom rings, as long as the power broker who's flag flies on your suit doesn't miff off one of the others. A sprawling, interconnected community that avoids each other as often as is possible that abuts the fringe of "civilization" and the provenance of beings beyond their comprehension. Into this somewhat delicately stable place comes a man with a ridiculous name, a ridiculous quest, and meets some . . . well, special people along the way. Chock full of insane plans and possessing a luck that a certain Corellian captain would envy, Fergus Ferguson (Told you.) knocks everything off kilter just by showing up, and the wonderful group of strangers he meets, beats, and just royally pisses off makes for a fun pinball ride.
To open her galaxy spanning novel, writer Suzanne Palmer plants us into a mundane situation with our erstwhile hero riding a space elevator, and stuff gets nuts pretty quickly. I absolutely love how quickly out of the gate this book moves and how engaging her characters are before we've even had a chance to settle into our harness. The way she composes the thoughts and actions of each character fairly flies off the page, and I was hooked with the initial pair by page two. In fact, this is one of the very few novels where I had intense reactions to not only the primary, but also secondary and tertiary characters, as well. There's no one you meet in this book who boils down to a stereotype or trope, even when they feel balanced on the edge.
Every time you worry, another little quirk crops up that keeps things delightfully fresh. The cast has a good variety, as well, allowing for fun and novel mix-ups. The same thing happens within the plot; Fergus' enemies are constantly thrown for a loop by the outside-the-sane thinking of our protagonist, and we lucky readers will be hurtled along with just as much whiplash. There's not only a source of a well-composed narrative here, but also evidence that the author's having a blast, as well. For example: The somewhat fourth-wall-breaking wink she sends us when dealing with a certain naming convention is just fun, and the point comes through that's what we're supposed to be having here, as well.
Though things move quickly and silly is sometimes the call, there are some intensely engaging moments of drama, as well, mostly dealing with backstories that come out from time to time. She protects her protagonists' deepest, darkest secrets in a way that you feel a person would, shying away from thoughts that drag them down a path and yet at the same time illuminates some deeper motivations from us. Palmer's style is incredibly visual; the pictures that she paints with her words are engaging and beautiful, and every set up has a rewarding payoff. This book was such fun that I'd love to explore this character more, see how his newfound abilities pay off down the line, and whether the growth that he undergoes here truly makes him something different, or simply something more.
If you're looking for a fun, little jaunt into a believable backwater with lots of intrigue, fun, and unsettling reminders of how fragile we all can be, this is one book that manages to encapsulate that mixture quite well. Suspenseful and funny without resorting to tired tricks and expecting a reader who's willing to think, this has quickly become the frontrunner for my favorite book this season. Check it out when it launches on April 2nd. No foolin'.
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Creative Team: Suzanne Palmer
Publisher: DAW Books, Inc.
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