Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Jeffrey Carver's Neptune Crossing, the first book of his "Chaos Chronicles" begins a space opera cycle with many of the familiar tropes of space opera, but also missing one of the features of that sub-genre. The novel opens with grounded pilot John Bandicut exploring beyond the permitted boundaries on Neptune's moon, Triton. Falling through the ice, Bandicut discovers an alien artifact and becomes the host to one of the long missing aliens known to have existed on Triton at one time.
Carver's solar system seems to be relatively well-explored. The novel, however, focuses on a small, unknown piece of real estate. As mentioned, Triton is known to have had aliens on it at one point and been an extrasolar object until captured by Neptune. Although the alien metals are collected by humans, no complete alien artifacts or bodies have been discovered. Similarly, humans are not actively searching Triton for clues about its previous inhabitants. There is a small exo-archaeology team on the planet, but they are not a serious attempt at discovering the remains of the aliens.
Once Bandicut becomes a host to his quarx, known as "Charlie," Charlie informs Bandicut that the science of Chaos Theory, in which the quarx are far in advanced of the human race, predicts a catastrophic collision with the Earth. The quarx is not entirely sure what the situation is, and the majority of the novel is spent trying to get around the bureaucratic obstacles which are thrown in their path.
Like most space opera heroes, Bandicut is something of a loner. Unlike most, actually does seem to be a loner. Although he knows many of the people who are posted to Triton, he does not like the majority, and few seem to actually know him particularly well. This, of course, is a benefit once he becomes host to the quarx.
The greatest failure of the novel is that it is a space novel in which nothing happens. Nearly the entire book is an inner dialogue between the quarx and Bandicut. This dialogue consists, mostly of the quarx warning Bandicut of impending doom and trying to keep Bandicut from announcing the alien's existence to anyone. Carver's become extremely repetitive in the part of the novel. During this time, the quarx is also attempting to assimilate as much knowledge as possible about humans. Carver does not show us what the quarx is acquiring, however, with the result that the reader is left in the dark concerning much of the background civilization of humanity.
When Bandicut and the quarx finally do discover the specifics of the threat to earth, Carver manages to capture very little of the sense of urgency with which they must act. Instead, Bandicut comes across as more reluctant than the average space opera hero.
Although Carver has some interesting ideas in Neptune Crossing, he includes too much filler to make the book fully worthwhile. The first book of a series (so far at three books), the reader has to wonder if there is any more action in future books or if they only continue the mental running in place which occurs in Neptune Crossing
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