Night Train to Rigel by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was a huge fan of Zahn's Star Wars sequel books when I was much younger, so I came into this hoping for a cracking good adventure ... and I was both disappointed and not.
The mystery and intrigue in this novel take off to a quick start when Frank Compton sees someone murdered in front of him and finds a ticket to the human colony Yandro on him ... made out to Frank. This ticket takes him on a path to the mysterious Spiders, who run the cross-universe railway system.
I found that understanding the details of the universe in which Frank operated came slowly and shakily ... which isn't helped by the fact that the plot twists, and twists again, and curves back on itself. It's an entertaining ride of itself, but made more difficult when a reader doesn't have a good grasp on the handholds first. I don't know quite why it was so difficult. I think part of it might have been that Zahn's descriptions are *so* straightforward and utilitarian that I tended to tune out.
Another element that makes it difficult is that Frank withholds some information with us that turns out to be not nearly as important to the story as the tentalizing hints / threats would make it out to be. I would have preferred knowing much earlier.
I also feel as if just a bit too much of the plot was the main character being moved around as a puppet by other players. It gets disheartening.
All of which makes it sound as if I'm down on this book, but there were some good facets: strong, quick-paced action. Shifting allegiances, some grudging, some wholehearted ... and probably one of the most intriguing, non-stereotypical "female sidekick" characters I've ever come across. Bayta is a book in herself. She's fascinating. Asexual, emotionless, and then peeling away like an onion without ever being anything other than true to herself.
I don't know that I would seek other books in this series, but it was an enjoyable ride.
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