Monday, 8 February 2010

Cosmopath by Eric Brown

November 2009, Solaris
416 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Science Fiction

Cushions: 5
Daggers: 4 for intensity, not frequency
Paperclips: 4 for intensity, not frequency
Smiles: 4
Tears: 4
Yunaleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Summary by me

Jeff Vaughn has the power of telepathy. In previous books (unread by me), he became a necropath: a person who can read the minds of the dead. It's worse than it sounds, because Jeff experiences all the person's thoughts before death - it is like he is dying. He gave up this path once, but when his daughter's life is at risk he is forced to return to that profession. He is sent to Canopus VII by a rich patron, to find out what happened to the crew. Nothing is to be taken at face value.

With a snappy first paragraph full of mystery and the promise of a smile filled story, Cosmopath earned a thumbs up from me early on. There's a great cosmopolitan feel to most of the settings, including the alien world. A fair amount of the cast and culture came from India and Asia. It wasn't only the setting and description that was well executed. The speech mimicked a non-native English speaker perfectly. I'm convinced non-natives of any language miss out slang and possibly speak too formally or casually. As a language lover its something I always look out for in books.

My favourite elements of sci-fi are found here:

  • Technology. There were terminals that provide a fountain of information for Vaughn, just never exactly the information which is really needed. Even with telepathy, that information can only be found through investigation. (Having extra senses is always a plus in sci-fi).
  • Aliens: there are the stranger aliens which Vaughn encounters, and there are the cute fluffy kind Vaughn and Sukara's daughter Li wishes to buy. Who wouldn't want one based on the following description from pg 57 "a snowball with six legs and four eyestalks"
With an assassin trying to kill Vaughn in the first chapter, I had half-wondered if it was going to be action packed. The action was sprinkled throughout the story, especially at the end. In my view one a key focus in the story was character development. I realise this is a trilogy, and I would love to read the other two books at some point, but I didn't feel that I had missed out on the history of the characters. Snippets of information was revealed at relevant times, and it felt like I knew the characters from another story. By this I mean it didn't feel like I was meeting the characters for the first time. Their thoughts and feelings rang out true from the pages. I grew attached to all of them.
Going back to the assassin, having someone who wants you dead is a pretty big deal. But for Vaughn it takes a back seat in his life when his daughter is diagnosed with a serious disease. He does all he can to provide the best treatment for her. Even though it means visiting a life he never wished to return to, he would probably have given his right leg if it meant his daughter would live a healthy life.

Vaughn isn't the only main character. This is a family based novel, with the focus on both parents. I hadn't expected to read Sukara's pov. I hadnt expexted to get Sukara's pov. Her view on events has me in tears. I relate to her plight on a variety of levels. I hope her harrowing back story is included in the previous two books because some day I would like to read them. Sukara's story focuses heavily on the emotional aspect of raising children, having to support her husband through difficult times. She has to put on a strong front so her children don't worry. The rare moments of privacy are spent being both the consoled and the consoler. Sometimes the truh has to be kept hidden from loved ones to keep them safe.

One small grumble with the story was that it would have been nicer to have events in chapter 21 happen earlier, because I was really concerned for Sukara. The alternative way of looking at chapter 21 is that Eric knew the emotional investment readers have in Sukara's character, and deliberately makes them (and me) read several chapters on tender hooks.

The antagonists' motives range from the obvious I-want-to-kill-you manner of the assassins, to the initially uncertain darker side of significant others in Vaughn's life. I failed miserably in working out what one person's true motives were: when revealed, they made sense and had me going 'oooh'.
(I am not giving the story away by saying any more.) They know which buttons to press to make Vaughn cooperative, something that makes me hate them because they know so much about his life.

The book ends high on action, emotion and suspense. I truly thought there might be a 'to be continued in a new series' note at the end of the book. But when Vaughn's saviours made an appearance, I knew everything would be fine. I guessed incorrectly what would happen to Vaughn and his family at the end, but I feel aspects raised at the end of the story could make a brilliant fourth book (

Make sure you check out the first two books in the trilogy (currently not read or reviewed by me) Necropath and Xenopath.


Becky said...

This is not quite within my comfort zone but it does sound interesting. Aliens is pushing it a bit for me. Although I do have an obsession with Stargate Atlantis. I wish that was a book. Thanks for sharing.

Yunaleska said...

I ADORE Stargate (Atlantis and SG1). One of my favourite shows.

There might be novels it by now...or coming out shortly.