An otherworld adventure featuring a military brat turned smuggler.
McCloskey (The House of Yeel, 2012, etc) starts with what is hopefully the beginning of a new series featuring xenoarchaeologist Telisa Relachik. After the government detects the heroes upon their arrival on planet T2 in search of ruins, United Nations Space Force officer Joe Hartlet is dispatched toward this abandoned planet. But before Joe can catch up to Telisa and crew—including the handsome enforcer, Magnus—the smugglers find an odd power source accessible through a tunnel. They throw caution to the wind and, like the robotic alien life form in the prologue, take a tumble down the strange rabbit hole. What lies beneath is a constantly shifting landscape that robotic alien Shiny eventually figures out how to maneuver, only after he’s wiped out half of Telisa’s crew, leaving her alone with Magnus for guidance, protection and entertainment. Joe eventually catches up and, together with Shiny, the gang forms an uneasy alliance. It’s shattered, though, once the alien finds the exit from this mysterious hole in the ground. From there, Shiny, Telisa and Magnus escape in a smuggler’s ship—only to be hijacked by Shiny and taken to what the reader is first told is an outpost planet, but later, when Joe and the UNSF arrive, is what seems to be the original hole in the ground. It’s a confusing transition: Are they back in the mysteriously changing environment or on a new planet? Author McCloskey doesn’t make it clear. He excels, however, in bringing up the Neuromancer-inspired implanted chips that enable communication within Telisa’s society. There’s even the brief mention of the need for people to explore a new form of communication: face to face. At one point, Telisa marvels at how quiet life is without her link; she’s not sure how people survived before it. The social statement rightly falls to the wayside in favor of adventure and the questionable motives behind Shiny’s presence. Many questions remain unanswered, however, due to the book’s abrupt ending.
Telisa and Magnus could carry a series with their entertaining if somewhat predictable smuggling adventures.