Pawn (A Chronicle Of Sibyl’s War book 1 of 3) by Timothy Zahn (book review).

May 16, 2019 | By | Reply More

Drunkard and petty crook Nicole Hammon, along with injured thug Howard…sorry Bungie and a doctor, Sam McNair, about to be forced to stitch him up, are captured by aliens. They don’t really want Bungie or McNair because the prize is Nicole, but take as a group lot. With the help of a mouth spray, she can hear the messages of the alien starship, the Fyrantha, and acts as foreman guiding her team in repairs. Bungie and McNair would rather get home but they are already a long distance from home. Nicole’s title is a Sibyl which is a Greek name for an oracle and she’s amongst a small number of people with the gift to hear voices.

Bungie convinces Nicole to help him get behind a locked door and finds out that it is a battleground for two opposing species. He promptly gets injured and Nicole has to get McNair to patch him up while he stays in hiding. The Fyrantha, meanwhile, instructs Nicole to go back again where she learns the food machine for one species is giving out less food to encourage them to fight or starve. This is not helped when the males of one species have to starve their females and children.

However, both Nicole and us get a larger picture of what is really going on. Through one of her team, Nicole also learns that the life expediency for Sibyls isn’t long due to the use of the mouth spray until one of the species she is helping discovers something odd about them. That’s spoiler so you’ll have to read what happens for yourself. Suffice to say, the reason is actually logical but, even so, you would have thought the reason would have been explained to these Sibyls why they had to be careful than just kill them.

Writer Timothy Zahn’s writing style isn’t overtly complex and will beguile you into reading the story although the warm-up is a tad slow. The target audience is Young Adult and its only when people like me read and analyse that for streetwise young adults there is a distinct lack of profanity or slang.

In some respects, Nicole’s background as a petty crook isn’t explored as much as it should be and only rears its head when Zahn needs a certain background skill, like lying, than exploit it all the time. Nicole’s also an alcoholic and yet doesn’t go through any withdrawal symptoms on-board the starship to point out to her reader audience that it isn’t easy which is also a missed opportunity.

The story is readable and just a taste of things to come, which is the whole point of trilogies. Watch who you trust.

GF Willmetts

May 2019

(pub: TOR/Forge. 347 page small hardback. Price: $25.99 (US), $36.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-2966-0)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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