Trouble Magnet: a Pip and Flinx adventure by Alan Dean Foster
In his latest adventure, Flinx must set out to find the Tar-Aiym Krang (first mentioned in the novel of the same name) and bring it back from where it is wandering around the galaxy to save Humanxity from the great evil now heading into the galaxy. But first, though he has never worried about this before, he has to decide if Humanity deserves to be saved. So, sensibly, he heads to a planet described as, “one of the most disreputable, debased, dangerous, and generally unpleasant worlds in the entire Commonwealth”, where “[the] occupants are primarily preoccupied with building wealth as opposed to character.” Yep, lots of reasons to save humanity there. Here, Flinx gets involved with a group of young toughs who steal from the wrong person and get in over their heads. It falls to Flinx, and a total deus ex machina ending, to save them.
If Foster doesn’t end this series soon, he’s gonna completely lose track of what he was doing. This one managed to hold my interest, but often in a “look at the trainwreck” sort of way.
Gridlinked by Neal Asher
It is the distant future. Interstellar travel is mostly by long-range teleportation (there are still some ships around, as someone must go to the target and set up the other end of the teleport gate), using terminology from an Edward Lear poem to describe the process: the gates themselves are called “Runcibles”, the part that sends you into and out of subspace is called a Spoon, and the people using the process are called “quince”. Not being a fan of Lear, I’m not familiar with the poem in question. Anyway, at the start of the novel a particularely ingenious terrorist action destroys the runcible and settlement on the extremely cold planet Samarkand. Earth Central agent Ian Cormac is trying to infiltrate a separatist cell on the planet Cheyne III; he is failing because he has been connected to the system (gridlinked), through the AIs that run the runcibles, for ten years more than is actually considered safe. He thinks and reacts more like a machine than a human. Earth Central decides to send him to investigate the Samarkand explosion, and requires him to unlink. To learn to become human again.
Travelling on the Starship Hubris, Cormac has to learn to get along with normal humans again: scientists and technicians, mostly, but also some soldiers and a few androids (Golems). Behind him, he leaves Cheyne III separatist Aran Pelter, angry over the death of his sister and obsessed with revenge on Cormac. Normally, that would be a minor problem at best, but Pelter has with him a psychotic combat Golem that he has named Mr. Crane. And on Samarkand something unexpected and alien is waiting.
Fun book. Inventive, original, and thoughtful. Recommended.