I know it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, don’t hate. But I figured I’d throw up a review of the most recent book I read, The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn.
The Icarus Hunt is a Science Fiction story with a heavy mystery sub-plot and a sort of who-done-it theme running throughout. It follows Jordan McKell and his partner Ixil as they take over command of an unknown shipping freighter from a desperate owner who can’t pilot it and do their best to make sure it reaches its destination in one piece. Their destination, however, is clear on the other side of the galaxy, and it turns out the freighter they’re piloting is maybe, sort of, kinda wanted by the most economically dominant race in the universe. Fun times.
PLOT: So the story starts off following captain Jordan McKell as he lumbers around taverno after taverno looking for a good drink after a hard planet-side landing. It’s written in 1st person point of view, so it’s all “I did” and “I went”. Normally I’m not the biggest fan of 1st person, but once again it grew on me as I continued. Jordan runs into a rather desperate ship owner looking to hire a crew immediately and take his ship and cargo off planet and all the way to Earth. Jordan, after some verbal negotiating, takes the job and meets a rag-tag, thrown together crew the next morning before lifting off. But the trip quickly turns dark as one of the crew members is murdered and several others injured. Suddenly Jordan and his partner are stuck on a ship with six people they’ve never met before, all with potentially false backgrounds and identities, on a long trip across the Spiral. But it gets better! If murderers and sabotage isn’t enough for them, galaxy-spanning crime lords, Patth Empires, and technologically advanced races all seem to want to get their hands on the ship Jordan is piloting, and for the life of him he can’t figure out why.
CHARACTERS: Timothy Zahn is apparently known for creating very realistic characters in all of his sci-fi settings, and this is no exception. Jordan McKell is such an homage to Han Solo it’s a little laughable. I mean, Zahn did write two of the original Star Wars novels, so I can totally forgive him for it. But the similarities are hard to miss. Both are pilots with under-par ships, with alien partners, under debt to a notorious crime boss, smuggling illegal contraband, ex military pilot court martialed after a dispute, smooth with the ladies, devil-may-care attitude. I could go on. Though the word, “smuggler” was used only twice. My point is, Jordan is a great character. He has depth that is hinted at in the beginning, but is so much more complex than I would have ever guessed. His partner is a perfect opposite of him that compliments their arguments and situations so well. The villains are pretty intimidating villains, and the crew of the Icarus, after getting to know each other a little, turn out to be well fleshed out characters themselves.
IMAGERY: Unfortunately, I felt it was a little standard. He didn’t blow me away with the descriptions of any planet or species or spaceport. But I will say that Zahn channeled his inner sarcasm through Jordan very well and described a lot of places through the eyes of a bitter, sleep deprived pilot pretty darn well. He created about a dozen unique alien worlds, complete with their own cultures, customs, and qwerks, but despite that none of them really blew me away. Not to say that it was bad, just… standard.
VERDICT: Pick it up. Read it. You’ll find you don’t have to force yourself through it in the slightest. It’s a good story that progresses well, the pacing is right on track, the characters are supremely realistic, and it’s written marvelously well. In my opinion, check it out when you have the chance.