cover image Deepdrive


Alexander Jablokov. Avon Books, $14 (311pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97636-2

In the 21st century, our solar system has been radically transformed by the presence of 11 different alien races. Some have come to colonize, others to trade and still others for reasons too inscrutable for humans to understand. The Bgarth, intelligent, wormlike beings larger than supertankers, tunnel beneath the soil of a terraformed Venus. A race known only as the Gunners has set up shop on Mercury and fires an enormous isotopic cannon at the Sun, possibly for religious reasons. A gigantic commensal being that calls itself Doc Kraken rents itself out as a tourist attraction in order to finance its thousand-year trip around the galaxy. Human beings, however, lacking a deepdrive, the only means of achieving faster-than-light travel, have remained second-class citizens, locked in their solar system and unable to compete on a galactic scale. Now, aging human mercenary Sophonisba Trost has been hired to help break a renegade alien named Ripi out of protective custody on Venus. Ripi may know the whereabouts of a deepdrive, or at least that's what Soph has been told. Of course, Soph's employers haven't given her the whole story. Jablokov (River of Dust) has a talent for creating truly strange aliens, creatures who are much more than just oddly dressed humans with bumpy foreheads. His multispecies future is complex, at times perhaps too much so, as his plot can be hard to follow. Overall, however, this is a sound example of latter-day space opera with some nicely developed characters and just a touch of noir atmospherics. (Aug.)