the void 

The Void

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by Timothy S. Johnston


In The Void, Timothy S. Johnston has cemented himself as the current master of the scifi dark detective story.  There is a little of Agatha Christie, a little of Isaac Asimov, and more than a little of John Campbell, but with all due respect to those luminaries, Johnston has his own voice that in some ways transcends them.  Johnston writes a taught, fast-moving, and claustrophobic story that pulls the reader in and doesn’t let go.

 This is the third book in the Kyle Tanner series, and while the book is fine as a stand-alone, I would recommend reading them in order.  For me, the most satisfying aspect of the series was to read as Tanner evolves from the “yes, sir, no, sir” duty-bound investigator to the man who while still performing his duty, begins to question his place in the grand scheme of things.  I wish Johnston had spent more time showing us the reasons for this other than mentioning “conversations with dissidents,” but even from inference, this was a great aspect of the entire three-book storyline.

 As with the other two books, Tanner has to unravel a murder mystery while isolated from most outside help--although this time, he has his lover Shaheen with him, and she is a great benefit to his investigation.  To make matters more difficult, the “murder” may or may not be a murder.  There is no tangible evidence that the deceased was in fact murdered.  Tanner was only on the scene due to a breakdown on his ship while transporting a brutal murderer to face justice in another system when he is drawn into the situation, one that hides much more than a mere murder.

 As in the other two books, Tanner is attacked more than once and faces obstacles thrown his way at every turn.  I have to point out that the attack making use of gravity was one of the most unique methods of attempted murder I have ever read, and one I enjoyed reading about very much.

 I was able to figure out most of the whodunit before the reveals, but not totally.  Johnston was able to level a few surprises that caught me off-guard.  The ultimate end may have been expected, but that didn’t make it any less satisfying.  In a way, the ending was like welcoming an old friend, someone I was expecting with anticipation and happy when he arrived.

 As always, Johnston has done significant research in the science in scifi.  Most of the science rings true, especially in the field of biology.  This is scifi, however, and so there are some jumps that are beyond modern understanding, but the scientific foundations of those jumps are sound.  We don’t know if the advancements will ever be possible, but they are certainly plausible based on our modern grasp of science.

 I am sad that this book evidently closes the story of Kyle Tanner.  I enjoyed all three books, and I look forward to reading the next series and discovering where it will take us.





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