One of humanity's colonies makes contact with an alien civilization that calls itself the Aurigan Empire. The empire politely demands the United Earth Military's unconditional and immediate surrender and sends wave after wave of warships.
Strangely, the Aurigan ships are technologically inferior, lack any sort of effective weaponry and are easily shot down - or so the UEM claims. When the colony's investors start getting nervous, acclaimed risk assessment agent Luray Ulyssa Cayenne is sent to determine what is going on and whether the Aurigans truly pose a threat.
What she finds is well beyond her pay grade, and what she does to uncover the truth could cost not only her freedom, but her very humanity.
Enjoy a mysterious science-fiction story challenging the reader and asking difficult questions that will keep you awake at night.
Haupt is an adept builder of intrigue and suspense. Luray is kept in the dark, constantly wondering whom she can and cannot trust. Her primary colony guide, an adept pilot named Kailoon, hides secrets of his own, creating a dynamic and compelling partnership. The inner machinations of the colony—the power struggles between generals, the presence of Aurigan traitors—creates a vast web of conspiracy that readers will enjoy piecing through. Haupt is great at introducing mysteries, and many of them are still unsolved at the end of this series opener.
The novel covers an immense amount of ground, moving from earth to the colony to an Aurigan habitat, and uses both third- and first-person narrative. Luray and Bin are the only consistent characters. The changes in cast and environment keep the reader turning pages, and the plot never lags. Action is interspersed with relevant philosophical discussions between Luray and Bin, mixing up the pacing nicely. This fast-paced, highly entertaining book introduces a mystery on every page and keeps the reader guessing throughout. Sci-fi fans will be eager to get their hands on the next installment.
Takeaway: This intrigue-laden sci-fi novel, replete with action, philosophy, and conspiracy, offers something for everyone.
Great for fans of: Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, Dan Simmons's Hyperion Cantos.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A-
It’s been a while since I’ve read a good science fiction novel. It’s been even longer since I’ve consumed one that I couldn’t put down. Dennis Haupt’s Luray is the book that ended that lack, breaking into my imagination and taking it for a ride that I hadn’t foreseen, earning 4 out of 4 stars along the way.
Focusing on the work of a risk assessment agent sent to a planetary colony, Luray examines what it means to be colonized and the limits of rational thought. Within its pages, Luray Ulyssa Cayenne is sent to the planet EE-297, a burgeoning colony headed by the United Earth Military (UEM), to determine its profitability after first contact has been made. What she finds there goes beyond her job description and might just push her to her limits.
I like this premise. I really do. When I select science fiction novels to read, I try to look for somewhat unique concepts set within familiar tropes. A risk assessment agent investigating a colony that has made first contact? Well, it more than fits my criteria, and it’s funny too.
A lot of the humour comes from the banter between Luray and her A.I. implant, Bin. A cross between friendly, adoring and educational, Luray and Bin’s conversations are probably the most interesting part of the book. While Bin professes his love for her, it’s clear that he enjoys challenging Luray, and there are many points in the book where this amusement is reciprocated. Given that the prose and dialogue are generally dry, yet humorous, the change in pace is a welcome break, coming in exactly where it’s needed.
That’s the charm of the book, in my opinion. It’s very dry and to the point, but that reflects the characters it favours. Luray, for example, is very rational, often overthinking her actions before taking them. Bin is much the same way, restricted by his ever-changing programming to whatever the new limits of his rational thought are.
I will say, though, that I don’t like how Haupt treats the general soldiers he mentioned in the book. They’re portrayed as stupid, mindless drones with a thirst for blood, often ruining Luray’s plans. The only members of the military who are given any sort of redeeming characteristics are the ones in command. Even then, we only have a favourable view of those who follow a similar rational train of thought to Luray’s. I thought this was more than a bit heavy-handed, putting a dampener on an otherwise fun book.
I also don’t like how easily the transition from one section of the book to another allows the author to drop the EE-297 cast without much in the way of any updates. Rather, we are dropped into an all-new situation with little information. While it’s clear that the book is meant to be part of a series, the number of unanswered questions left by the end is extremely frustrating due, in part, to not knowing what happens to the colony after the transition.
That said, I really enjoyed Luray, and I think science fiction lovers will too. It was fun, engaging and mostly well-edited, with only one or two errors that I could find. I encourage you guys to check it out.
Happy reading, everyone!