Mackenzie Jones, better known as Mac, is an escort on his home planet. One night, after a bout with his latest client, Mac goes into the kitchen to get a drink — and to snoop through Ethan’s kitchen. He rifles through some papers he can’t easily read, glances at a book, and finds a box. Of course he opens it, who wouldn’t? Inside is a small broach, which Mac instantly picks up, turning it this way and that… and then it pricks him.
That small stab of pain, and a bead of blood, does something — starts something — because the next thing Mac knows, he is in a strange room, naked, and sitting in a chair. Two men walk in and talk to him in a language he doesn’t understand until they jab him with a needle filled with who knows what. Now he can understand them, but he still has no idea where he is or why he’s there.
So Mac does the sane, sensible thing… he runs. Soon he’s in a prison of some sort talking to a woman with horns on her head whose name is Lenara. With a bit of banter and maybe a bit of flirting between them, Lenara soon has them out of the cages and on the run to her space ship. With a Kovan priest, a lupan named Ral, and the universe on their heels, Mac is in for the adventure of a lifetime!
Mac and his adventures are not like those classic sci-fi books, the ones where heroes used brains instead of brawn, tricks instead of tactics, and managed to charm their way out of just about every situation. While this book has a similar feel to the serial adventures, with our wayward crew on the run from the law, hopping from planet to planet one step ahead of bounty-hunters and each chapter being a mini-adventure on it’s own… it feels like no one cares about much of anything in this book. Lenara, Teevar (the Kovan priest), and Mac know they have a bounty on their heads, but it doesn’t stop them from wandering willy-nilly into markets and bars. No masks, no disguises, no thought in their heads to take precautions against getting caught.
Mac is the most obvious problem with this He is not a hero, or an antihero. He’s a snarky, smarmy little weasel who manages to find trouble wherever he is. He’s whisked away to an alien planet! He’s meeting aliens, going on an alien ship, being shot at by alien bounty hunters! He’s visiting new worlds no human has ever been to, let alone imagine existed! He’s falling in love with an alien! Yet he seems not to have any reaction to that at all.
Imagine, if you will, crickets chirping. Static on the television. Someone yawning. Those crickets seem to have more of an opinion about these events than Mac does. He shows no wonder, no shock, no anger or rage or interest in a single thing. Even the so-called love interest, Teevar, doesn’t do anything more for Mac than get him laid. There’s no emotion, no passion, no real interest. They could both be dolls smashed together by a child and you’d get much the same reaction out of them as the story gives us.
If the characters are going to be bland stereotypes or cliches worn-thin for the sake of the story, how’s the story? Well, let’s first take a look at the world building. The ship goes from planet to planet in a matter of… seconds? Weeks? Eons? I imagine some time passes, but it’s never clear. These planets have people on them, and that’s about all you’re going to get to know about them. There are rooms on the ship, and food to eat, but so little attention is given to them I’m left imagining some sterile, institution grey boxes and grey mush to eat. The world(s) feel cold and barren, which left me completely uninterested in the characters — or anything else in this book.
So, with no world building and no characters, how about the plot? The plot is convoluted, but not without promise. Unfortunately, without having any attachment to any of the characters, I had no investment in them or what happens to them. When another character is caught by bounty hunters and the rest of the crew has to leave them behind to save their own lives, it should be an emotional scene. I should be either upset at the abandonment or anxious to see the plan they come up with to rescue their friend. Instead, I was checking to see how much more of the book I had left to read.
There are moments of very good writing, and the plot shows promise. But with no world for the plot to take place in — other than “Generic Science Fiction Land” — it’s hard to get a feel for anything. With no characters to become attached to, my interest in the plot became purely academic. I tend to hyperbolic, at times, but this time when I say there are no characters in this book, I mean it. Goat horn lady is generic “girl” character. Teevar is so bland and static he might as well be a fleshlight. Mac has no reaction to anything happening to him and cares so little about anything at all I wonder if he’s a sociopath, but that would have been interesting and Mac… isn’t.
This book is an utter pass from me. I regret it because there was a very faint spark of a story… but there was nothing to support it.