Jordan McKell is a down on his luck independent shipper who isn’t “all that independent, actually, not anymore.” A small fry smuggler for an organization that bailed him out of his debts, McKell gets in further over his head when he accepts a side job to pilot a ship carrying a secret cargo dug up from an archeological site back to Earth. Related in first person, Jordan’s story carries the reader along a struggle keep a thrown together crew a step ahead of parties interested in his cargo and that epitomize “any means necessary.”
I am a big fan of Timothy Zahn. He is (deservedly) best known for his Star Wars novels, which are excellent and probably his greatest works.
However he has also written several phenomenal original works, of which Icarus Hunt is my favorite.
A key element of Zahn’s craft is his amazing intuition for how much detail to explain. This story is not about the specifics of the alien races encountered, or the mechanics of their method of space travel, etc. It’s a suspense story of a group of characters we desperately want to know the fates of. But these things are necessary knowledge for understanding how events proceed. Zahn weaves just enough of the particulars that you feel like you’re right there with them and know what they know. The fact that he does so seamlessly and without drawing attention to it or slowing the story down is a highlight of his writing, and this book in particular.
Equal parts mystery and science fiction, Icarus Hunt grabs you at word one and keeps you going until the last puzzle piece clicks into place. It also holds up beautifully to repeat readings, where all the little things overlooked the first time through lock into place and enhance your ride through Jordan’s journey.