This week I decided to review Weird Space: Satan's Reach by Eric Brown.
The story starts with free trader Dan Harper a former telepathic agent of the Expansion, the authoritarian regime that rules most of humanity, before he stole a ship and fled to the uncontrolled Satan's Reach region, arriving on the world Ajanta to deliver cargo. Ajanta is ruled by the native Ajantans who use addiction to a drug native to the world to enslave the planet's human population. Harper meets Zeela, a young woman certain to die horribly at Ajantan hands. Harper agrees to help her flee the planet but soon finds himself held in an Ajantan lair with her after being betrayed by his customer and sold to the Ajantans. The two manage to escape and are rescued by the Judi Hearne, Harper's AI equipped ship.
Meanwhile bounty hunter Sharl Janaker and a Vetch (another spacefaring species the Expansion recently fought a war with) named Helsh Kreller are recruited to retrieve Harper and his ship. The Weird, an organic technology-equipped hive mind from another dimension, has begun an invasion of human and Vetch space seeking to absorb both species via portals linking the two dimensions that are incredibly resistant to damage. And the Weird have infected a number of humans and Vetch with parasites, allowing the Weird to seize control of the hosts at will. The only way to identify these hosts is via telepathic scan making Harper very valuable.
In Satan's Reach, Harper takes Zeela to Tarrasay, a world where he often conducts business, after apparently evading the pursuing Ajantans, with plans to let her build a new life there. But she convinces him to take her to her homeworld of Kallasta and the stopover on Tarrasay is interrupted by a run-in with Janaker and Kreller. So now with bounty hunters and Ajantans chasing them, Harper and Zeela set out for Kallasta, making various stops and destroying an Ajantan warship en route. But when they reach their destination they discover that Zeela's parents had left because they were fleeing the early stages of an invasion of their world by the Weird. They meet and team up with Janaker and Kreller after the latter rescue them from another team of Ajantans but an agent of the Weird is far closer then they believe...
I give this book 7 out of 10. The characters are interesting, even if some of their stories are pretty predictable. However, I feel the setting needed much more detail included and the combat sequences are far too brief for my tastes and included very little in the way of details concerning what is going on in most cases. Still, the story has potential and I hope later books reinforce the areas where this one was lacking.