Night Train to Rigel
I admit it: I’m not much of a science nerd. So sometimes hard sci-fi is pretty difficult for me to follow, much less enjoy. On the other hand, Night Train to Rigel was just up my alley: fluffy, goofy “science” fiction that features an intergalactic railway as the primary setting for an action-packed — okay, downright ridiculous — plot. Yes, there are aliens, and yes, there are starships. There are even some cool gadgets, though, of course, we have no idea how they work (neither do the characters). But there’s no real science in sight. And, yes, I liked it.
I can’t really summarize anything about this book’s mystery-thriller plot without giving away one of the two gazillion surprise revelations and plot twists. Suffice it to say that it features said revelations and plot twists, as well as non-stop action, creative settings, and an insidious megalomaniacal villain aiming to take over the entire galaxy. (Don’t tell me you’re surprised.) Zahn gets the story off on the right track with some murderous action on the second page and doesn’t slow down until the end. Central character Frank Compton’s smooth first-person narrative, featuring hilarious wry humor, gets the tale where it needs to go. You’ll enjoy trying to follow the plot twists and solve the mystery so much, you won’t even care that several of Frank’s intuitive jumps in reason — as well as some of the ‘connections’ piecing the plot together — are so concocted as to be pretty ridiculous. After all, it’s hard to fault an author for cheesiness when he embraces it — and makes a highly entertaining story out of it into the bargain. I must admit, I took the section at the end where Frank is trying to decide about the relative moral value of two different systems of intergalactic control just about as seriously as I took the rest of the book…in other words, not very. And I think that’s how the author meant it. So enjoy this highly entertaining romp through the galaxy. Just don’t expect any science out of it.