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The Wrong Stars (SF) - Tim Pratt ***

This solid space opera is sold as as being 'ridiculously fun' and 'fun, funny...' - so I was expecting something rather Douglas Adams-like - but it's certainly no comedy in space. The characters certainly attempt banter, but to be honest it's not very good (Tim Pratt should take a look at something like Ben Aaronvitch's Rivers of London series for banter lessons.) However, if you take the book on as a straightforward tale of slightly dodgy space traders (who are also sort-of law enforcers) and strange aliens, it's significantly more successful.

At risk of damning the book with faint praise, I mildly enjoyed it, but certainly won't be rushing back to read the sequels (almost inevitably for a modern SF book, this is 'Book One of the Axiom'). The characters are a touch stereotyped and don't really develop. The plot is sort of interesting - a survivor of an ancient sub-light long range vessel returns to the Solar System thanks to an unknown drive. Said survivor has encountered aliens, which everyone assumes (despite fairly strong evidence to the contrary) are the only alien species so far encountered, known as Liars because they... (you guessed it). Only it's more complicated than that.

The scales get pushed out of balance when a habitat with 50,000 inhabitants is destroyed and our heroes take on the strange aliens despite impossible odds.

There's certainly quite a lot going on here. And if you like straightforward space opera, The Wrong Stars may well appeal. But it didn't rank high on my list, I'm afraid.

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Review by Brian Clegg

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