RogerBW's Blog

Vortex of Crimson, Lise MacTague 12 October 2021

2016 SF, last of its trilogy. Jak needs to get back to her homeworld of Haefen for specialised medical attention, and to hunt down the sniper who killed her brother; Torrin needs to go there because her sister and business partner has been kidnapped.

And while we're expected to believe that they are each other's One True Loves, I suspect MacTague thinks that stable couples are boring, because my goodness they each do a lousy job of guessing what the other wants, and it's apparently against their religions actually to ask before acting. Each of them's trying to protect the other by taking all the risk on herself, which is an interesting dynamic, but they go on doing it even after they've agreed that it was the wrong thing to do.

Sometimes this works – as when Jak wants to do just one more useful thing that only she can do before getting the treatment, because then each of them has a valid argument and there'd be room for discussion if they'd talk about it. But even a good idea can be overdone if repeated to excess, and for me it was.

There are also lots of new people and ideas; we finally see something of the Solarian League that's been the background nuisance all through, and… it doesn't seem so terrible after all, if not very effective. Apparently their hand weapons (which Torrin has been smuggling to the planet) have transponders in them, and they never thought of using this to find out where they were ending up on the planet until Torrin suggested it. But by the end they're planning to end Torrin's smuggling career, as far as I can tell because their captain got in a snit about something even though until then she's been presented as one of the good competent people, and there isn't even time to work out what might happen next in Torrin's life. (A later short story, Landing Day, develops this further, but would have been welcome as an epilogue.)

There are dramatic moments that work well, and even some personal moments ditto, but the pacing is off – too many new ideas for a last volume – and to me at least this book seemed to take the elements I liked least from volume two and make them the centrepiece. It's not terrible, but it felt to me like a let-down compared with the earlier books, particularly the first.

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