My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Seldom have I enjoyed a novel so much as I enjoyed this one. It’s a gritty, noir mystery wrapped up in a sci fi package and it doesn’t disappoint. I feel drained from reading it and I don’t think I can write anything worthy enough to do it justice, so I’ll just highlight some things for those reading this review.
Juno Mozambe is a bad man. Yet he’s a cop. A dirty cop. Very dirty. Former enforcer for the Chief of Koba’s Office of Police (aka KOP) on Lagarto, a world that once exported a type of wine that got taken off world and was produced elsewhere for cheaper, thus leaving Lagarto a giant slum, for all intents and purposes. When we meet Juno, he’s working as a bag man for the boss, taking bribes, hiding a shaking hand and thinking of retirement. He’s been on the force for 25 years. Things seem grim.
Things get much more grim when a brutal murder occurs with potential political ramifications, in which he’s pulled in to act as investigating officer, with a new partner — a younger, attractive, rich woman who plays by the book. What follows is a brilliant novel of hard boiled twists and turns, mysterious characters and motives, a lot of violence, some of which can be hard to stomach, and it’s a page turner til you get to the end. The characters are well written, and feel real and believable the entire way through the book. There’s not a lot of technology here, though, so I guess the setting on a distant world makes this sci fi — the plot could take place anywhere, any time — but when you finally realize toward the end of the book what’s actually going on, you could care less — you’ve been sucked in.
Everyone in this book is dirty. Juno is a kind of anti-hero, but one you can identify with. His new partner starts playing by his rules soon enough, and you sympathize with her as she struggles with what she wants to do versus what she must do to solve this case. Juno reverts to his enforcer role, beating confessions out of thugs and criminals, but does this make him just as bad? That’s never really answered, even though the book throws that out there.
Juno, and the boss he’s so devoted to, his former partner Paul Chang, took over KOP 25 years ago by making a deal with the largest crime syndicate, effectively splitting up the city between them. The new mayor wants to clean house, but he’s as big a crook as everyone else.
I kept waiting for the pacing to slow down, as many books have slow middle sections, but this one never did. It kept pushing the envelope. Furious pace. I strongly, strongly recommend this book to all sci fi and mystery fans. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
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About Scott Holstad
Scott C. Holstad is the poetry editor for Ray’s Road Review.