Caine Riordan is a writer, not a soldier, but when he chases a story to the Moon, he apparently steps too close to a secret held by an organisation that does not officially exist or so he is led to believe when they pull him from cryogenic sleep thirteen years later. He was put on ice for his own protection, apparently, and the process robbed him not only of more than a decade but of the last hundred hours before he went down.
What happened in those hours?
That question, in part, initially drives Riordan to accept an assignment from IRIS, the organisation that contrives to hide him and then revives him. That and the fact he is given little other choice. He is provided with some basic training and sent to the recently colonised Delta Parvonis Three to investigate reports of a native exosapient presence. Alien, sentient beings the original survey missed. He finds them and, in the process, uncovers the shady dealings of a large corporate entity…and another secret apparently worth more than his life.
To avoid being killed, Riordan enters deep sleep again, only for a few months this time. When he awakens, his situation is no less perilous, however.
Riordan reveals his findings at a closed conference, but divulging his secrets doesn’t take the target off his back. The attempts on his life continue and, as a result, he decides to disappear, until IRIS recruits him for another assignment. He’s to meet more exosapiens as humanity has been invited to convocation where their membership in an interspecies accord will be deliberated.
Given the questions raised by what Riordan uncovered on Delta Parvonis Three and the undisclosed threat posed by the existence of star-faring alien species, Riordan is compelled to accept.
‘Fire With Fire’ kept me entertained up to this point. Reminiscent of a Jack McDevitt novel, the story unfurled with a good ratio of mystery to resolution, action to reaction. I understood I would not learn the big secret, the significance of what Riordan found on Delta Parvonis Three, until the end. Perhaps, then, the lost one hundred hours would be revealed and Riordan and I would flip the last page of the novel over with a sense of satisfaction. In between, the intersecting plot threads, action and well-conceived science kept those pages turning.
When Riordan and the rest of humanity’s delegation left for the convocation, I became entranced.
The exosapiens, the undercurrents of intrigue within the convocation, the revelation of a much broader plot and the final capture of those one hundred hours kept me reading without pause until the end of the book. Then I discovered my cup of tea had gone cold again and it was actually afternoon, not morning and I would have to wait untold months for the next entry in the series. I indulged in a constrained bout of hand-wringing and then sat down to write this review.
‘Fire With Fire’ will appeal to most Science Fiction enthusiasts. I chose to read it because of the ‘Science Fiction thriller’ depiction. I like a good mystery. Toss in some hard science and aliens and I’m pretty much sold. Given the depth and breadth of the politics involved, earthly and beyond, I think this book will also appeal to many mainstream mystery and thriller readers. It is well-written in my opinion and the characters are varied and engaging. The greater plot is revealed slowly, which might require some patience at the beginning, but that is generally the nature of a good mystery. Small resolutions are followed by larger questions, compelling the reader to move forward. Not every question is answered by the end, but as a stand-alone novel, ‘Fire With Fire’ works well enough. I defy anyone not to be interested in what comes next, however.
(pub: Baen. 496 page paperback. Price: $8.36 (US), £ 9.45 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-45163-883-7)