Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Time Future

by Maxine McArthur


The space station Jocasta is under seige, cut off from the rest of the galaxy by hostile alien ships. Commander Halley is a human living in a time when humans are considered to be a lesser species, well down the pecking order. Denied social position and political influence, as well as access to superior alien technology, humans are effectively powerless.

The Time Future universe is split into nine lesser races and four greater ones, all peacefully united under one Confederacy. But Jocasta has been cut off for months, set upon by pirates and then blockaded by the Seouras, and the Confederacy is nowhere to be seen. The large Seouras ships killed everyone who tried to leave the system, without exception. The station is overcrowded and understocked, its vital systems badly in need of repair.

No-one knows what the Seouras want, or whether the Confederacy are going to come to their aid. Then a ship arrives, setting off a jump mine which kills all but three of its passengers, humans travelling in cryostasis. Oddly, it appears to have departed before humans knew of the existence of jump technology. It was bound for Alpha Centauri, but overshot its intended course by 50 years. Whilst Halley is tackling these mysteries, a trader is murdered by an alien creature believed to be extinct.

Halley is not your usual heroine. Small, greying and tired, she's an engineer by trade. She accepted the job as head of station after the resignation or untimely deaths of her predecessors. She's not in it for the glory, and her main asset is a steely determination to keep the station safe and everyone alive.

The politics and intrigue between the various alien races make for a complex mystery. The aliens are not merely humans with slight facial differences, they often breathe different atmospheres as well as looking and thinking in wholly different ways. It's space opera of the best kind, thrilling and ingenious at the same time. The plot thickens when Halley's ex-husband, an alien prince, arrives on the station. She disagrees with his politics and violent methods, but he's a raging bucket of pheromone-laden attraction. This leads to a fair amount of sexual tension.

I'm hard pressed to think of anything I don't like about this novel. No technobabble, no stereotypical heroine, and no solving things by simply shooting at them. It's just the right length, and it ends well with a good twist right in the last paragraph. If you enjoy reading Iain M. Banks or watching Babylon 5, this should be right up your street.

Book Details

Decade: 1990s

Categories: Books

  Science fiction
    Female Protagonist  

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Review © Ros Jackson