Humankind has attempted to join the Galactic Forum (“the nearest thing the Milky Way had to a governing body”) before but has had its acceptance delayed because it can’t seem to abide by the most important rule of Galactic Law: the Responsibility Principle—“Every species is responsible for the acts of all its members.” Enter Sirius Kade, the archetypal space-opera hero—charismatic, courageous, headstrong and undeniably endearing. The captain of a merchant starship and deep-cover operative for the Earth Intelligence Service, Kade is tasked with a seemingly impossible mission in which he must attend a black market auction, the outcome of which risks humankind’s future as an interstellar civilization. The relic being auctioned is an invaluable piece of alien technology more than 7 million years old; Kade’s charge is to possess it at any cost. The mission becomes exponentially more complicated when Kade’s sometime lover, Marie Dulon, shows up as another bidder on the remote planet where the auction is taking place. The exceptional worldbuilding, intricately constructed storyline and breakneck pacing are weighed down, however, by a glut of one-dimensional characters. Kade, Dulon and company are all cardboard cutouts with no real emotional depth. Kade’s hard-drinking and womanizing 26-year-old co-pilot, Jase Logan, for example, is an easy stereotype, as are the Matarons, a villainous reptilian race. Although this first installment of the Mapped Space saga is certainly not without imperfections, Renneberg has created the foundation for what could be a highly entertaining series of adventures à la Simon R. Green’s Deathstalker novels and Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat series.
Fast and furious fun in humankind’s distant future.