Books

Short works

Books : reviews

Timothy Zahn.
Time Bomb and Zahndry others.
Baen. 1979

Contents

Time Bomb. 1988
Ernie. 1979
Raison D'Etre. 1981
The Price of Survival. 1981
Between a Rock and a High Place. 1982
Houseguest. 1982
The President's Doll. 1987
Banshee. 1987

Timothy Zahn.
Cascade Point.
Baen. 1980

Contents

The Giftie Gie Us. 1981
The Dreamsender. 1980
The Energy Crisis of 2215. 1981
Return to the Fold. 1984
The Shadows of Evening. 1983
Not Always to the Strong. 1986
The Challenge. 1980
The Cassandra. 1983
Dragon Pax. 1982
Job Inaction. 1981
Teamwork. 1984
The Final Report on the Lifeline Experiment. 1983
Cascade Point. 1983

Timothy Zahn.
Distant Friends and others.
Baen. 1981

Contents

Guardian Angel. 1986
Red Thoughts at Morning. 1981
Dark Thoughts at Noon. 1982
Black Thoughts at Midnight. 1992
The Peaceful Man. 1982
The Evidence of Things Not Seen. 1986
Expanded Charter. 1983
Final Solution. 1982
Pawn's Gambit. 1982

Timothy Zahn.
Manta's Gift.
Tor. 2002

Timothy Zahn.
The Green and the Gray.
Tor. 2004

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 17 August 2008

Roger and Caroline Whittier, a couple whose marriage is beginning to go sour, are walking home from a play when they get mugged. Only this mugger, after holding them up at gun-point, gives them his gun and puts them in charge of Melantha, an unconscious and injured girl, then disappears. This is no ordinary girl: she is supposed to be a sacrifice to stop a war between the Greens and Grays, ancient non-human clans living secretly in New York. Now both sides want her back to complete the sacrifice, and others want her so that they can stop the sacrifice and start the war, and yet others want her so that … well, it’s up to Roger and Caroline to work together to figure out what’s going on, and who the good guys are, before New York melts down in the biggest gang war ever.

This is fun. The various factions are complicated, and all have different motives, and everyone is trying to trick everyone else, and no-one is a caricatured villain. The Green and Gray abilities are used well to further the plot, and some of the technology is interesting. I do think that the protagonists figure various clues out a bit too easily: sure, they have all the information, but they manage to put them together the right way with rather too much ease. And the final confrontation is maybe just a little too easy. But on the whole, an interesting furtive alien battle taking place on the streets of new York in a post-9/11 jittery time.

Timothy Zahn.
Soulminder.
Open Road. 2014

For Dr. Adrian Sommers, a split second of driving while distracted leads to tragedy—and obsession. His family destroyed, he devotes his entire being to developing Soulminder, a technology that might have saved his son as he wavered on the edge of death. Sommers’s vision is to capture a dying person’s life essence and hold it safety in stasis while physicians heal the body from injury or disease. Years of experimentation finally end in success—but those who recognize Soulminder’s possibilities almost immediately corrupt its original concept to pursue dangerous new frontiers: body-swapping, obstruction of justice, extortion, and perhaps even immortality.

Timothy Zahn.
The Judas Solution.
Baen. 2006

Timothy Zahn.
Cobra Alliance.
Baen. 2009

Timothy Zahn.
Cobra Guardian.
Baen. 2011

Earth had won its war with the alien Troft by using the formidable Cobra warriors, who had high-tech weaponry implanted in their bodies, invisible but deadly. Generations later, colony worlds settled after the war have grown doubtful that the Cobras are worth the high expense of their equipment and training. That was a mistake.

Jasmlne Moreau Broom, descendant of a now-legendary Cobra family, had received a cryptic message urging her to come to the planet Qasama, a world colonized by a human faction who were hostile both to the Troft and the Cobra worlds. But she had hardly arrived before Troft starshlps descended in force to seize control of the planet. After desperate battles with the invaders, Jasmine has escaped on a starship, hoping to get help from other Cobra worlds. What she had not expected was that Troft forces had invaded the Cobra worlds as well.

Still, matters are not hopeless. The Troft are not a monolithic society, but are divided into tribe-like demesnes. One demense has initiated hostilities, but other demesnes are doubtful of the wisdom of starting a new war with the humans. Still, they are not willing to go up against the belligerent demense, unless the humans can win a battle against the invaders—a victory that will demonstrate that the option of siding with the humans is not futile.

And the key to such a victory may lie with a political figure on one of the beleaguered Cobra worlds. He has a secret that might turn the tide—if Cobra Lorne Broom can manage to smuggle him and his assistant off a planet occupied by the Troft invaders.

Timothy Zahn.
Cobra Gamble.
Baen. 2012

Timothy Zahn.
Cobra Slave.
Baen. 2013

Cobras: technologically enhanced warriors bred to fight an alien menace no ordinary human can withstand. At the center of action on Cobra world Aventine: the legendary Moreau clan. In times of war, the Cobras are necessary, yet in times of peace they are often reviled by those they have saved. Now the Cobras have resisted a second invasion of the alien Troft forces, and forced the Troft to a stalemate.

Yet all is not well in the human sector of the galaxy. A supposed sister empire, the Dominion of Man, threatens the Cobra worlds with enslavement as it moves to consolidate power. But the totalitarian Dominion of Man and the Troft game-masters are in for a rude surprise—for within each Cobra, bred by close family ties and hard testing in battle, there beats the heart of a warrior and the burning conviction that a Cobra will be slave to no one. Rebellion is at hand, and once again Cobras lead the fight for freedom.

Timothy Zahn.
Cobra Outlaw.
Baen. 2015

War clouds gathering

Cobra warriors: technologically enhanced human warriors designed to combat an implacable alien menace. Now, and not for the first time, the Cobras are facing trouble from their own kind.

The Broom clan of Cobra warriors finds itself pressed between two star empires headed for war. On the planet Aventine, the Moreau’s homeworld, pater familias Paul Broom is due to have his memories sifted through in order to root out the location of legendary Qasama—a planet where huge advances in military hardware might give the Dominion of Man an edge in a coming war with the alien Troft.

In the galaxy beyond, rebellion is brewing against Dominion atrocities and Dominion scheming, with outlaw Cobra warriors Lorne and Jody Broom in the vanguard. Meanwhile, Cobra Jason Broom poses as an escaped slave on a secret Troft prison planet where humans are sent to gladiatorial combat to the death for Troft amusement and wagering. He is seeking information on Troft factions—information that may save the Cobra worlds, and head off a massive interstellar war in the bargain.

Now the stage is set for adventure, with one family of Cobra heroes once again fighting for freedom and peace in a galaxy on the edge of war.

Timothy Zahn.
Dragon and Thief.
Tom Doherty. 2003

Timothy Zahn.
Night Train to Rigel.
Tor. 2005

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 28 April 2007

Frank Compton, discharged Terran intelligence agent, is expecting the stranger maybe to attack, but not to fall dead at his feet, and certainly not to have an interstellar quadrail ticket in Compton’s name to the newest Earth colony. But he decides to go on the trip, where he discovers that the “Spiders”, enigmatic controllers of the quadrail, want to employ him to prevent a war between two of the other species in the Empire. He decides to play along, despite having another mission entirely to discharge, and sets off to investigate. He soon discovers no one is telling the truth, and several factions want him dead. But where are the warmongers?

This is a fun hard boiled detective space opera style story, with loads of clues and red herrings, and lots of interesting aliens. Because of its hard boiled style, the first person narration is a little flat, but that’s okay. And there are plenty of double crosses and deeper plots to keep the pages turning.

Timothy Zahn.
The Third Lynx.
Tor. 2007

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 18 November 2010

Frank Compton and his assistant Bayta are off to help a colleague destroy the coral basis of Modhri, the secret hive mind enemy, when a billionaire art collector is beaten to death on the quadrail, and Frank is the chief suspect. Fired by his mysterious employers, Frank must chase down the elusive Third MacGuffin before the Modhri finds it.

Lots of to-ing and fro-ing through the quadrail system, weird encounters, and desperate escapes, as Compton uses his superior deductive skills to slowly figure out what it actually going on (with the Modhri, if not with Bayta).

Timothy Zahn.
Odd Girl Out.
Tor. 2008

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 17 September 2011

Frank Compton finds a surprise guest in his flat: a woman holding his own gun on him. She is after his help to rescue a 10 year old girl from the planet New Tigris. But Compton is exhausted, and suspicious of a plot from the sinister alien Modrhi. So he brushes her off, telling her to contact the police. A few hours later he is roused from sleep, to be questioned about the murder of two people with his gun. This sets in motion yet another race against time through the interstellar Quadrail system, as he and his assistant Bayta attempt to rescue the girl and foil the Modrhi’s latest plot.

More chasing, plot twists and turns, and hard-boiled detection across interstellar space, with an interesting additional twist at the end.

Timothy Zahn.
The Domino Pattern.
Tor. 2009

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 22 October 2013

CONSPIRACY AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT

Frank Compton used to be a Terran agent, but that was a piece of cake compared to working for the aliens who run the Ouadrail, an interstellar transportation system that connects a dozen civilizations across the galaxy.

The Modhri, an enormously powerful alien lifeform, threatens to enslave the entire galaxy by controlling the thoughts of all its citizens. It does so by having parts of itself “infect” others on contact, making them its unwitting agents. Frank and his assistant, Bayta, hop an express Quadrail to the source of the trouble.

But passengers are being murdered … and something worse than murder haunts the Quadrail. A plot is brewing that even the Modhri fears. And Frank and Bayta may be the only ones who can stop it.

Here we have a classic “locked train” mystery: Murder on the Quadrail Express. The Spiders ensure that no weapons, no poisons, nothing harmful, can be brought aboard. So why do passengers keep dying? And why is the Modhri scared enough by this to be helping Compton’s investigation?

A slightly slow start, as we really get to feel the effect having to keep walking up and down the long Quadrail train. It speeds up once Compton stops being baffled and works out some of what is going on. And there’s a nice big reveal at the end that puts the whole Modhri issue in a new and unexpected light.

Timothy Zahn.
Judgment at Proteus.
Tor. 2012

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 15 January 2015

The enemy of my enemy …

Ever since Frank Compton was asked by the mysterious alien Chahwyn to help them prevent a parasitic entity called the Modhri from enslaving the entire galaxy, it has taken all his experience, savvy, and quick thinking to stay one step ahead of the Modhri and its army of unsuspecting slaves.

But Compton and the woman known as Bayta have discovered an even greater threat to the galaxy—a centuries-old genetically engineered race of warriors that was defeated only by the most extreme means long ago … and has now reemerged.

Though it seems impossible, when Compton and Bayta confront the new super-warriors on Proteus Station, they realize that the enemy they have barely fought to a draw over so many months may now be their only hope against the reborn galactic overlords planning to restore their dread dominion.

In this finale to the Quadrail series, Frank Compton and Bayta, previously waging war on the mind-controlling Modrhi coral, have realised they have a bigger enemy, and that the Modrhi may be their only hope for averting galactic enslavement.

After another rather slow start, as Compton gets accused of murder at Proteus station, we are back to lots of to-ing and fro-ing around the galaxy, with Compton displaying his usual resourcefulness, and friends and enemies popping up in the most unexpected of places. There are quite a lot of new revelations and behind-the-scenes manoeuvrings packed into this final volume, but there is definite closure.

A satisfying ending to a series set in an interesting universe with satisfyingly diverse aliens.