cover image Critical Point

Critical Point

S.L. Huang. Tor, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-18036-0

Huang’s exciting third novel to feature mercenary Cas Russell (after Null Set) finds Cas taking baby steps toward living a normal life—until she discovers her friend is missing. Cas’s investigation gets off to a dangerous start when a man with the magical power to make people instantly forget about him blows up her Los Angeles office. The action only escalates as clues lead Cas to both a freelance bomber and a recently deceased plastic surgeon. Huang allows plenty of opportunities for antihero Cas to showcase her supernatural mathematical skills by defusing bombs, examining evidence, and executing fantastic feats during the exhilarating action sequences. Less successful are the tale’s quieter beats: the dialogue tends to become incoherent when characters are flustered, and some introspection grows tedious as Cas struggles with ethical questions. The reveal of the true antagonist also falls flat, but Huang still manages to bring this complex, many layered plot to a mostly satisfying conclusion. Cas’s continuing development will please series fans, but new readers may find the backstory overwhelming. This fast-paced sci-fi thriller makes up for its flaws with clever plotting and thrilling action. (Apr.)