cover image The Voyage

The Voyage

David Drake. Tor Books, $23.95 (415pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85158-3

The author of Time Safari assembles an entertaining crew for this novel about a young mercenary's entrance into manhood. Ned Slade wants to make a name for himself, and a voyage on the spaceship Swift provides his opportunity. Captained by the capable, attractive Lissea Doormann and manned by 20 hired killers, the spaceship Swift sets out for the Lost Colony of Pancahte to retrieve a stolen capsule that will vault Lissea to the head of Doormann Trading, one of the galaxy's most powerful businesses. The crew deals efficiently with a number of dangerous landings along the way, retrieves the capsule and returns triumphantly to the Swift 's home port of Telaria, where they face their bloodiest battle. Meanwhile, Ned earns his comrades' respect and Lissea's attention with his combination of sharpshooting and intelligence. Vivid, often gruesome battle scenes abound, but the quieter chapters contain the most intriguing episodes, as Ned and his crewmates witness the planetary devastation wreaked by others of their kind. Drake sometimes overstates his case, and his constant praise of the Swift 's crew eventually grows stale, but he injects depth into a fast-moving tale to create that most elusive of hybrids: an SF adventure with a conscience. (Jan.)