RogerBW's Blog

Finder, Suzanne Palmer 02 April 2021

2019 SF, first of a series. Fergus is a finder, a probably-reformed thief turned repo man for (in this case) a stolen starship.

Above the airlock, in at least twenty different human and non-human languages, a faded sign read, Management Not Responsible For Losses Due to Depressurization or Alien Interference. Fergus Ferguson considered, not for the first time, whether the life choices that had brought him to this place had been entirely sound.

This is at least two books in one. On the one hand, we have Fergus's personal story; the details gradually become apparent, but it's clear early on that he has some major unprocessed trauma that he's trying to deal with by never getting close to anyone. On the other, there's the essentially procedural adventure of starship repossession, which immediately affects the politics of a poor and remote cluster of space habitats in a backwater system: the guy who stole the ship is one of the local faction bosses, which means that whatever happens the balance of power is going to be upset.

And then there are the enigmatic aliens.

It's perhaps a bit much for a single book, though that's a standard first-novel problem. I was slightly reminded of Rusch's Diving Into the Wreck, where the very first expedition that we see into a wrecked spaceship turns out to be the one that kicks off the Big Plot; there I'd have liked to see what a normal expedition looked like, and here I'd have liked to see what a normal repossession looked like, in other words what our heroes had been doing before their personal stories were forced to start moving again. That way, when things started to go weird, there'd have been more of a feeling of things being different from the norm.

Maybe I just want to read about a starship repossessor in this very interesting world.

There are some oddities of scale. Human space is apparently pretty huge, but everyone seems to have an opinion about the political situation on Mars… while at the same time most of them don't seem to have heard of Scotland or indeed that Earth has subdivisions at all. Cernee, the cluster of habitats that's the site of most of the action, doesn't seem to have any particular reason to exist given how easily people can go elsewhere in the system. And the interesting multipolar political tension seems to collapse rather too easily into good guys and bad guys, which isn't a satisfying resolution.

All that said, there's a sense of fun which makes up for a lot; I've enjoyed some of Palmer's short fiction and while there are definitely rough edges here I'll come back for more.

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