Friday, May 8, 2015

James Review -- Balance Point

This week I decided to review Balance Point by Robert Buettner. The Story opens with Jazen Parker, a high level agent for Terran Intelligence who has a problem. His Grezzen friend Mort, who is very large, very strong, sentient and highly telepathic, is very angry.  While using his telepathic abilities, which can reach across the gulf between solar systems, to see the news stories being read by the man who brought him his holiday dinner, Mort discovered that Bartram Cutler, a criminal business tycoon responsible for the death of Mort’s mother, has been pardoned and Mort is very unhappy. After Jazen calms Mort down, the story shifts to the neutral banking world of Rand where Cutler is meeting Maximillian Polian, an agent for Yavet, a human world that is Earth’s rival in the ongoing interstellar cold war. Polian also discovers that he has a reason of his own to hate Jazen and Kat, Jaz’s partner and lover. Cutler reveals a scheme to both get revenge against the Earth intelligence agents and obtain the faster-than-light drive which is Earth’s biggest advantage over Yavet.

Back on Earth after a party hosted by Kat’s father, who does not approve of his daughter's work or her relationship with Jazen, the couple meets with Howard, the head of Earth’s intelligence division, who informs them that they are on leave until further notice due to the suspension of active operation against Yavet interests. While Mort returns home for his once-in-a-lifetime chance to mate, Kat and Jazen eventually travel to Mousetrap, a system where most of Earth’s faster-than-light ships were built, whose shipyards are now mostly shut down and converted into a free city. Jazen lived here after escaping his homeworld of Yavet, but when Kat catches Jazen drinking with his former lover who now runs the bar Jazen owns, she assumes the worst and locks him out  Then Jazen receives a message telling him that the woman who raised him is dying and begins plotting a secret visit to his homeworld, unaware that the message, while true, was arranged by Polian. Jazen sets off on a journey to Yavet after informing Mort of his plans. But first comes a stop at Funhouse, a world renowned for gambling. Funhouse is particularly known for wagers on fights between alien predatory animals, and Jazen barely manages to escape after being accused of helping rig the games before continuing to his true destination. Meanwhile Mort has revealed Jazen’s destination to Kat who informs Howard. Howard then reveals that while there is likely a trap waiting on Yavet, Jazen may not be the true target. Instead he could be bait to lure the biological parents he never knew to Yavet. Kat races to try to aid Jazen who, after meeting his biological family, discovers the role his parents played in ending humanity’s first interstellar war and the secret knowledge which makes his mother such a valuable target to the force of Yavet. But the reunion soon becomes a desperate race to escape the net arranged by Polian’s forces with time rapidly running out. The book also contains "Mole Hunt" which is a short story concerning a Yavet covert operation on the planet Downgraded Earthlike 476, AKA the homeworld of the Grezzen.
I give this book an 8 out of 10. It wasn’t bad but there was little to make it particularly special in my eyes. I also felt that the big revelation about the end of Earth’s war with the Slugs was incredibly cliché. Also I felt that Kat's reaction to Jazen's and Syrene's meeting was an extreme overreaction that was out of character for Kat and thrown in as little more then an excuse to separate Jazen and Kat for a while. Finally, this is a spy book first and foremost, not a military science fiction book. It is good for its genre but very light on the combat. I enjoy spy novels as well as more combat heavy stories but if you are someone who prefers lots of bullets and lasers flying in the books you read this is not for you.

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