Cutthroat corporate politics in an interplanetary future.
Shwartz (Second Chances, 2001) tells her story from the viewpoint of CC Williams, an upwardly mobile and talented auditor sent by her employer, Alpha Consultants, to investigate financial high-jinks on the asteroid Vesta. The story begins in transit, where CC struggles to maintain status in relation to various other ship’s passengers. Former Ambassador Neave and his wife Margaret are the highest-ranking aboard, and CC is pleased when they seem to befriend her. A direct threat is the ultracompetitive Sandy, whose slick veneer conceals slum origins similar to CC’s, and the ethics of a weasel. CC also meets Mark Davidoff, scion of a wealthy clan and a person to be reckoned with despite his current position as a military officer attached to the ship. In a mandatory training mission outside the ship, CC and Mark spot a fast-moving “bogey,” the first clue to the eventual plot direction. Finally, on Vesta, CC settles down to her audit, looking through financial records to discover who’s been diverting funds. But barely has she settled in than a series of apparent accidents convince her that someone is trying to prevent her from finishing her job. Meanwhile, Mark takes her slumming to a bar frequented by the colony’s spacers, and she finds herself enjoying life with the locals far better than she does with her fiancé, David IV, back on Earth. The Vesta colony is interesting and, in general, believably portrayed. Unfortunately, though, Shwartz doesn’t generate enough plot momentum to make up for her heroine’s overall lack of sympathetic traits. When CC finally puts the financial clues together and stumbles on the plot’s big surprise, the payoff is certainly adequate—but a fair number of readers may have stopped caring.
Competent world-building undercut by a terminally uptight protagonist and a plodding storyline.