Inherit the Stars

by Tony Peak

Reviewed by Scott T. Barnes

In the opening to Inherit the Stars, we learn that the Chosen One is destined to Save The Universe by retrieving a McGuffin.

Sound mundane?

Not so fast.

Author Tony Peak manages to take the standard setup and turn it into an enjoyable romp, delivering enough betrayals, revelations, and plot twists to keep all but the most jaded readers happy.

(Besides, just between you and me, avoiding the "Chosen One must retrieve McGuffin" setup in fantasy and sci-fi is rather like trying to avoid the murder in a mystery—it almost can't be done.)

Our heroine is Kivita Vondir, a space salvager. Her universe is a complex one, with various human factions fighting over dwindling resources in the inhabitable universe. The most influential of the factions is probably the religious cult known as the Inheritors. They believe themselves to be the inheritors of a legacy laid down by a departed race called the Vim. This departed race has left behind clues to their disappearance, and to the future of the human race, in artifacts which serve as datacores.

All of the races in the universe seem to be related to humans except the Sarrhdtuu. The Sarrhdtuu are some sort of hybrid humanoid—gelatinous, shape shifting thing-a-ma-jobbers that are so alien in mind and body that humans don't understand their motivations. The only thing known for sure is that their technology—and fighting prowess—is formidable.

Of course, Kivita is uniquely qualified to "read" these artifacts. Especially the most crucial of them all, the Juxj Star. Only she doesn't know it yet. But the Rector of the Inheritors, His Holiness Dunaar Thev, does. He intends to use Kivita to retrieve the Juxj Star and then dispose of her.

While the heroine is female, to me this read as a distinctly "male" book. While this may just be my own bias, the sexual tension (there is no on-page sex) felt distinctly masculine. An example, landing on planet after a long run, Kivita tries to buck herself up by telling herself: "Remember—there's jirr juice and sex out there." Nothing romantic or nuanced about it. Also, most problems get solved through action and violence—though the baddies are clever about laying their plots.

I've been a fan of Tony Peak for a while, having published his short story Meridian in June of 2011, and I'm happy he's broken out in long form with a major publisher.

Inherit the Stars reads like an old-fashioned pirate adventure in space. There are loads of shoot outs. True to the genre, the baddies can barely hit the broadside of an asteroid; the goodies can shoot the hair off a space mole. In one unforgettable scene, the heroine shoots the barrels off of five enemy rifles with a single shot.

This "pirate adventure" ambiance gets reinforced when we meet space pirates about halfway through the book, led by Shekelor Thal. Like all good pirates, Shekelor is motivated by greed.

Or is he? 

One nice thing about Inherit the Stars is that most of the characters—villains and heroes alike—have a mixed bag of motivations, some selfish, some selfless.

Kivita ends up with a romantic entanglement, also with mixed motivations.

The other thing I really enjoyed is that Peak is a master of dialog. All of his characters have distinct voices. He could have easily done away with the dialog tags and the conversations would still have been easy to follow.

There are sure to be more adventures on Kivita's universe. The book wraps up satisfactorily but there are a number of mysteries that have yet to be solved. All in all, Inherit the Stars is a nice read in the tradition of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but doesn't measure up to the greats in the field. As this is Peak's first published novel, I'm sure he will continue to improve and impress.

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