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Jo Fletcher Books, 4 April 2019
I'm grateful to Jo Fletcher Books for a free advance copy of Morhelion.
Morhelion returns to the universe Dulley created in Shattermoon. Aurelia "Orry" Kent is one of a team of grifters, comprising her, the enigmatic Mender and her teenage brother, Ethan. Oh, and Mender's sentient starship, Dainty Jane. In Shattermoon, Orr and Ethan survived the death of their father and the loss of their previous ship, Bonaventure, and took up with Mender. They a,so earned the gratitude of the Emperor of the galactic Ascendancy and witnessed a war begin with the alien Kadiran.
In Morhelion we first see Orry and the gang doing what they do best - running a scam (these books really are like Hustle in space). Inevitably, things go wrong, and the story soon spins off into a series of fast-paced escapades involving spies, aliens, space Leviathans and some truly seamy characters. There's a slight Wild West atmosphere to the planet of Morhelion where isolated, bubble-enclosed communities floating above the gas giant mostly seem to host junkyards, dodgy lawmen and even dodgier saloons.But also a serious theme as the planet's main trade is in slaughtering those endangered - and sentient - Leviathans, rather proving Orry's point that the Ascendancy is rotten and uncaring.
It's an intensely enjoyable book, pretty much action filled and always very readable - Dulley has a genius for getting Orry & Co into a tight spot and then providing an audacious way out. Audacious, but never downright unbelievable, given the care with which he's portrayed Orry as resourceful, brave and quick-witted. She is a well-rounded protagonist, a couple of the villains here perhaps a bit cartoonish in comparison (unlike the magnificent Roag in Shattermoon). And there are some great one-liners in this book besides.
Morhelion is very much not hard SF - if you want a universe of buccaneering, laser battles and sculduggery without troubling too much over the speed of light, energy or distances, then Morhelion will be for you - that's not to say it's hand waving, Dulley accounts for everything that needs to be, but the book is focussed on the characters, not making the tech plausible. Which is fine by me - I'd rather he made, say, the scamming of a rich banker plausible that worry about hyperspace.
So, a good read, and I hope there are more adventures coming along for Orry and her mates.
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