cover image Transcendental


James Gunn. Tor, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7653-3501-2

Fascinating, frustrating conundrums are the core of this novel by one of the oldest living SFWA Grand Masters. Riley, a disillusioned soldier of fortune, has been sent on a pilgrimage in search of a machine rumored to offer transcendence, which here means fulfillment of one’s potential. Riley’s anonymous employers are worried that faith in transcendence might disturb the Galactic Federation’s uneasy balance of power following a devastating war between humans and aliens. His orders are to destroy the machine and kill the mysterious prophet guarding it. But Riley is only one among a crowd of human and alien pilgrims aboard a rundown spaceship; all are suspicious of each other, and only a few are willing to explain themselves in lengthy tales that might or might not be true. Gunn keeps the action dancing nimbly through uneasy alliances, abrupt betrayals, and sudden violence as the ship sails through the starless void toward its destination. Perhaps inevitably, the conclusion is anticlimactic, making the novel feel like the first installment of a much longer story. (Sept.)