Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Galaxy Blues - Allen Steele


Galaxy Blues
Allen Steele
Ace

Science Fiction

Note: The Coyote Trilogy and Spindrift precede this novel. Not having read the previous books, I have no way of knowing if this review contains spoilers. On the bright side, I’m proof that you can start reading the series here with no problem.

The career trajectory of Jules Truffaut has not been ideal. He made it to the Union Astronautica, attained the rank of Ensign, and was thrown out in short order. His mission now is to get to the planet called Coyote. To do so, he’s got fake papers that allow him to work for months as the astronaut version of a longshoreman, loading cargo into ships. He stows away in one such ship, and is apprehended fairly quickly. When brought before the captain, he requests political asylum on Coyote. His request met with less than enthusiasm, he helps himself to a lifeboat and crashes down on the planet on his own. Now that his feet are literally on the ground, his case for asylum should be stronger. Or, the local government could simply deport him back to Earth where he will enjoy the accommodations provided by the penal system.

Having reached Coyote, he is almost immediately arrested as an illegal immigrant and put in a fairly comfortable cell to await the pleasure of a judge. What he gets instead is a visit from a man he saw briefly aboard the ship. That man turns out to be Morgan Goldstein, founder and CEO of Janus, Ltd. Goldstein is a billionaire on several planets, thanks to his shipping concerns, and he has a proposition for Jules. He wants Jules to work for him, as a shuttle pilot. The flights will be the first-ever cargo shipments to and from the home world of the recently discovered alien race known as the hjadd. If Jules agrees, Goldstein can make the immigration mess go away; if he refuses, good luck back on Earth.

Too late, Jules realizes he’s forgotten to ask exactly what cargo will be shipped. He decides that he’ll take that gamble for a chance to be part of Coyote and to see star systems most pilots will ever only dream about. Careful what you wish for, Jules. In short order, an incident arises that angers the reclusive hjadd. In a sort of penance, Jules must now place a probe near a black hole. What happens next has huge implications for both races.

Jules narrates in first person, so the reader just sort of tags along with him. In this case, the device works perfectly. Jules is intelligent and clever, and his schemes seem that way, too, until something comes up that makes them not quite so clever. He’s fond of comparing every situation to baseball, which can be a little tedious, but that’s a small thing. The story is really character-driven, making this novel easily accessible to readers with only a nodding acquaintance with science or space travel. The book opens with Jules’ great escape plan already in progress, and the narrative pace continues to be quick and even. It makes me wish I’d read the previous books, just for the enjoyment of good writing and great space opera.

Rating: 7 ½
April 2008
ISBN#978-0-441-01564-1 (hardcover)

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