An excellent story about a man caught between a corrupt legal system and
the pirates he’s hiding from, with some cool aliens and a few twists
about who the bad guys are. I love the descriptions of the Flux, and
here we spend lots of time with the visual images created by the riggers
as they go search for the missing ship.
In the few books I’ve read about the Flux and riggers, my best memories
are of the images they can create to make the Flux navigable, turning
their spacecraft into airplanes or boats, bubbles or other objects,
keeping their minds sane. This book opens almost immediately in a
strange region of the Flux as Legrodinger escapes from the pirates,
navigating a perilous region and escaping through a shaft very few
people could have done. It’s breathtaking, and is an excellent beginning
to this book.
Legrodinger faces all sorts of perils, from the
mock trial of his implication in the disappearance of the ship that was
captured by the raiders, his expulsion from the rigger guild for it, his
search for the truth by going to the library then McGinnis’ mansion,
where he’s nearly killed, and finally to the alien Narseil, who send him
back to the pirates to gather intelligence.
lawyer Harriet, taking his case because her grandson was lost on the
same ship he met so long ago, uncovers corruption in the rigging
guild and the spacing guild, that they are all working with the pirates.
The reasons for this are not clear from her perspective, but it turns
out to be much more complicated than simple corruption. The raiders have
infiltrated Faber Eridani (and presumably other places) because they
want to gain support for their planned mission into the heart of the
galaxy, something that was denied them when they lost the war over a
hundred years ago.
It's a case of augmented vs unaugmented
humans, and while the augmented Kyber lost, they have now gained the
upper hand, because the Centrist worlds that won the war have not done
any colonizing, and many people believe it should have happened.
The key to Legrodinger’s obsession is the missing starship Impris,
which he knows he saw in the Flux just before his ship was taken by the
pirates years earlier. McGinnis knew about a cover-up, and so do the
Narseil. So Legrodinger continues his search by going undercover with
them. He joins forces with Deutch, another rigger who had been captured
by the pirates, to infiltrate the Kyber base Ivan.
was captured by Denoble pirates, and his life there was miserable.
However, Ivan is completely different. These pirates only use their
pirating to gain supplies as they are half-embedded in the Flux, though
they still use slaves. Still, it is a prosperous space station with
markets and restaurants, businesses and exploration. Plus, they have
created a fleet of starships ready to go deep into the Flux to gain
access to the Well of Stars, their colonization route. The politics of
the Kyber vs the Centrist worlds is well documented, and is very
naturally given. The internal politics of Ivan are a little more
ambiguous, but are still interesting.
Trace-Ace/Alfa is a sexy
character with a sexy name, and not just in the way she and Legrodinger
make love after his first night on Ivan. She’s a force for change on
that outpost, and is a strong character who tries to do the right thing,
even as she exercises terrible power to be able to do the right things.
Yes, she seduces Legrodinger almost immediately, and I think part of
that is because he doesn’t fear her. But part is to share her
experience, as their love-making is accentuated through her implants,
which she has grown up with, and Legrodinger’s, which were installed by
the Narseil. I kept waiting for things to go sour, because Legrodinger
was a terribly spy, and I would have been very disappointed if Tracy-Ace
had been fooled by his attitude. She wasn’t, but she and Ivan himself
want the pirates to change, to become more independent and stop the
piracy, so they can move into the Well of Stars as a truly
But Ivan wants guarantees that the deep
Flux will be safe for the fleet, given the uncertainty of what happened
to Impris. So he sends Deutch and Legrodinger and the Narseil to search
for the lost starship in the deep Flux. This part of the story is once
again different from the earlier parts, with a completely different
pacing as they search for and find Impris, then try to understand what
happened so they can bring her out again. Time is moving differently on
different parts of the ship, making life very difficult and
communication almost impossible. The people don’t trust that Legrodinger
and Deutch are real instead of imagined. But as the ship starts fading
in and out, they make a decision to go deeper into the Flux, based on
the Narseil knowledge of what they believe to be there. The Narseil are
wrong, but Legrodinger and Deutch are able to navigate through the
troubling dreamscape to realspace.
Of course, they are found out
by a pirate ship from Carlotta, who were behind Legrodeinger’s fake
trial; they engage in battle, but are rescued by escort ships from Ivan.
The return to Faber Eridani isn’t easy, and the denouement of
the book isn’t a real wrap-up. Legrodinger’s implants have shut down,
only to be accessed by the Narseil. The people in charge of the rigger
and spacing guilds don’t take kindly to Impris’ return, as the ship is
essential to the Carlotta pirates, so they try to take action, but are
disabled through internal politics and some Ivan ships, and the fact
that Ivan has convinced Carlotta that Legrodinger’s implants have some
So not all loose ends are wrapped up, and
they don’t need to be. It’s funny, as Deutch says, that Legrodinger has
a woman at every port, even though he just escaped the pirates ten weeks
earlier, between Maris (whom he rescued from the pirates) to Morgan (his
lawyer’s daughter) to Tracy-Ace, with whom he has a real connection. The
mystery of the Flux is awaiting analysis by the Narseil. The human-first
group Centrist Strength still has power, but is most likely to merge
with the Kyber Republic. But things are moving forward, and it looks
like cooperation is in the best interests of all groups. At least Legrodinger gets to clear his name in the end! And, at least for now, he
also gets Tracy-Ace.