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Eric Brown
Solaris, 415 pages

Eric Brown
Eric Brown was born in 1960 and grew up in Australia. He now lives in Haworth, England. His novels include The Virex Trilogy (Penumbra, Meridian Days, Engineman, Untouchable and Walkabout -- the latter two for young adults), and the collections The Time-Lapsed Man and Blue Shifting. He is a regular and popular contributor to Interzone magazine.

Eric Brown's Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Threshold Shift
SF Site Review: Approaching Omega
SF Site Review: New York Dreams
SF Site Review: Bengal Station
SF Site Review: New York Nights
SF Site Review: New York Blues
SF Site Review: Parellax View
SF Site Review: Bengal Station

Past Feature Reviews
A review by John Enzinas

Necropath by Eric Brown is the story of a telepath named Jeff Vaughan who works on the docks of the space port known as Bengal Station. His job is to scan ships for contraband and stowaways. He has become suspicious of his boss and while investigating his suspicions, he discovers a cult that is smuggling something onto Earth.

The story is very much in the Noir style, with Vaughan playing the role of the hard boiled detective hiding from his past. Like a comedia del arte, we are given a fresh take on all of the expected players. We have the plucky street kid, the fixer who can get you what you need, the hooker with the heart of gold and the one good cop. We also see the corrupt officials, and a secret that goes to the highest levels. It's familiar enough to be comfortable but not in any way stale or derivative.

However, there were two things about Necropath that prevented me from loving this book as much as I wanted.

The first was the cover art. The cover art depicts an orbital space station where a giant spaceship shaped like a praying mantis is about to dock. The scene comes from one of the very first descriptions of the port in the book. The problem with this is that the station is not actually in orbit although the book does not explicitly say this until about two thirds of the way through. Thanks to this, I had 200 or so pages of being dragged out of the narrative to try and understand how a space station was being affected by a monsoon or how one of the characters was able to stand next to the ocean. It was very distracting.

The second problem was a little more significant, but really only to me. As I said above, I really wanted to love this book. The characters are engaging. The setting is enthralling. The plot is captivating. The twists (because there have to be twists) are delightful. Unfortunately, the writing is only good. Given the genre that Brown was trying to develop from, I wanted writing that was tighter and more able to add to that terse flow that a good noir detective story should have. After a few chapters he finds his footing and starts running, but it's like he's only starting to work out and doesn't have the endurance to keep going at that pace for the whole book. Because of this, while I wanted to love this book, I had to make do with only liking it. 

Even if the book is not great, it was still good and I intend to read the next book in the series for three reasons. First the setting is a wonderful mix of tech and trash. Second, the characters are people who I cared about and liked. Finally, even though this is the first book of a trilogy, Eric Brown still took the time to finish his story and not write a cliffhanger. For that alone, I'm sold.

Copyright © 2008 John Enzinas

John Enzinas reads frequently and passionately. In his spare time he plays with swords.

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