The Icarus Hunt
This is a book of surprises, where almost everybody has a secret and you keep finding out that the situation is completely different from what you thought it was. Jordan McKell and his alien partner, Ixil, are independent traders. But then they’re also smuggling for a galactic druglord. And then there’s a mysterious official in Earth government whom they keep calling up for advice. There’s a ship with a sealed cargo, the Icarus, which they’re hired to fly to Earth. Then their employer disappears. Then it turns out that the Icarus must have something very important onboard, because half the governments in the galaxy are trying to catch them.
And then one of the crew is murdered.
Zahn is a solid grade-B writer, and this book is no exception. Characterization is not his strong point: it’s done well enough for you to sympathize with the heroes and wish them well, but there’s no deep complexity or development. On the other hand, there are some nifty alien/technology ideas, a twisty whodunnit plot, and good action scenes. My only real complaint is that one of the final surprises seems to come out of left field; given the first-person narration, I think we should have picked up hints earlier. Even so, it’s quite a fun read.
Morally, this has just the classic good guys and bad guys with no deep messages or complex moral dilemmas. The hero does work for a druglord, but there are extenuating circumstances, though they aren’t all revealed till the end.