Morhelion (The Long Game book 2) by Dominic Dulley (book review).

May 5, 2019 | By | Reply More

‘Morhelion’ follows on from Dominic Dulley’s debut novel, the breezy space opera adventure ‘Shattermoon’, bringing back the roguish and mismatched crew of the Dainty Jane to mix it up with a new batch of criminal gangs, opportunists, charming conmen and villainous authority figures. Grifter Orry, her younger brother Ethan and grizzled veteran Mender are once more drawn into a non-stop series of travels, danger, traps and lethal encounters when a con goes bad and a secret mission impinges on their somewhat carefree and independent lifestyle.

As with the first volume, the cast of characters who make up the background encounters are great fun. They’re a varied bunch of cartoonish villains, sympathetic low-lifes, opportunistic criminals and metaphorically-red-shirted security guards. In fact, even the random guards and minor crooks that have to be dealt with at various junctures portray a nice range of personalities and motivations rather than being cut-out copies of evil villain underlings. The interplay between the main crew and those they encounter is often witty, sometimes brutal and continually entertaining.

As with the previous book, the titular planet ‘Morhelion’ is a great invention. It’s a planet with a thick, gaseous atmosphere populated with floating habitat spheres and navigated by whaling vessels that hunt the leviathans that float through the crushing depths of the atmosphere. The crew spend a fair amount of the book here and Dominic Dulley gives us a nicely-described society of various factions who inhabit the different strata of society and of the atmosphere.

Orry and her crew live on the fringes of the Empire, among the poor and down-trodden colonies and far away from the rich central planets. Considering that they make their living preying on greedy and corrupt officials and existing in the cracks in society, Orry’s willingness to risk her life and that of her brother for the sake of the Imperator seemed a little unlikely to me.

Once the adventure is underway, you can pretty much ignore everyone’s motivations and just enjoy the on-going adventure, but I was always left with a nagging feeling that Orry was more likely to have just said ‘forget it’ and gone back to her old life. Especially as her father was killed in the first book and she spends a lot of time fretting about her younger brother, I couldn’t reconcile this with the fact that she was repeatedly willing to risk all of their lives. She makes the comment early on that although she’s not a fan of the elitist empire, it’s better than the chaos that would result if the Imperator was assassinated and the system fell apart. But would that really make any difference on the neglected colony worlds where she operates?

With all of the killing and blowing up of things and that happens, she does become annoyingly moralistic from time to time.

Putting that aside, the plot hangs together well, with each scene and situation following on from the previous one with some kind of logic, often confused by kidnappings, insurrections, space battles and a host of other interruptions. Orry makes some powerful friends along the way, as well as some seriously mean enemies and you just know that these will come back at some point in the plot. It all adds up to a satisfyingly convoluted plot that sorts out a lot of loose ends but leaves more things lined up for a further book. It’s a great read for fans of space opera and criminal capers.

Gareth D Jones

April 2019

(pub: Jo Fletcher Books/Quercus. 436 page enlarged paperback. Price: £16.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78648-606-6)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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