By Eric Brown
Publisher: Solaris (Rebellion)
The Book: After surviving a catastrophic starship blow-out, Delia Kemp finds herself stranded on the inhospitable, ice-bound world of Valinda, populated by the Skelt, a race of hostile aliens who will stop at nothing to obtain Delia’s scientific knowledge. Escaping from the Skelt – assisted by a friendly chimpanzee-like alien and a giant spider-crab – she travels south through a phantasmagorical landscape as the long winter comes to an end and the short, blistering summer approaches. Pursued by the Skelt, she and her companions make a death-defying dash across the planet’s inimical equator to meet up with fellow survivors from the starship, and a final journey to the valley of Mahkanda – where salvation just might be awaiting.
Binary System is a thrilling action-adventure novel in the spirit of Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure.
The Review: Press copy that compares a new SF project with some of the most memorable work of Jack Vance might perhaps seem a dangerous gambit, drawing inevitable comparison. But award-winning author Eric Brown again proves more than capable of delivering an inventive alien biosystem in which to set a “ripping yarn” of an adventure, delivering an enjoyable quest-style tale of humans trapped on a deadly planet.
First published by 2000AD publisher Rebellion as two separate eBooks, Binary and System, this collection delivers an engaging tale set against the backdrop of universe where humankind has reached the stars, but not yet encountered sentient alien life – until now.
I don’t want to spoil the story by revealing too much of the plot, but as heroine Delia Kemp battles her way across a planet exiting a prolonged winter thanks to its bizarre elliptical orbit, there are plenty of twists and turns to the story as she joins forces with Mahn, a brave Fahran, in a war against the locust-like Skelt, a devious species intent on returning to the stars they came from many centuries ago… and who will stop at nothing to achieve their goal.
There’s some great world building in this novel, with both aliens and fauna sure to intrigue. Story-wise, Binary System is linear, focused entirely on Delia’s experiences on this alien world, but there’s plenty here to offer future tales if Eric decides, not least the prospect of a more hostile encounter with the Skelt as humans reach other worlds they have, or tried to, conquer.
If you enjoy a good space adventure told with panache, offering a believable alien setting and characters, I think you should check Binary System out. It’s a complete story in its own right, hinting at opportunities for return and further stories which I hope will be realised.
• Eric Brown Official Site: ericbrown.co.uk