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June 1, 2018
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Zero World
Jason M. Hough
Del Rey, Hardcover, $27, 592 pp
Published: August 2015

This might be simplistically described as James Bond meets alternate Earth but it really has some good meat on its bones.

Our hero, Peter Caswell, is a very special type of agent/assassin – he always goes into a job as a novice, every single time – because after each mission his memory of the mission is deleted.  He has no murders on his conscience; he can approach each job with the sure knowledge that none of his actions will haunt his sleep.

After having just completed a job and confident he will have some vacation time coming; he is abruptly pulled into a crisis and sent into space to rendezvous with a lost ship.  His mission:  find the one missing member of the murdered crew, dispense with the salvage ship’s crew, and murder that missing crew member.  But the trail is cold, the ship has been adrift for a dozen years.  It should have been a straightforward mission but it was anything but…Nothing about this mission is as expected and Peter is unable to make his usual preparations for the anticipated memory deletion, something that fills him with trepidation.

When he finally finds the missing crew member, Alice Vale, he will need all of his chameleon skills to blend in with an alien society, find Alice, kill her and remove all her influence from this strange new world.  And he has to do it all in just fourteen days.  Peter is, fundamentally, adaptable but the world that Alice fled to challenges his sanity.  What Peter experiences on this new world will change all of his perspectives and all that he thought he knew; but how much good will that do him when his memory is automatically deleted in just fourteen days?  He’ll even forget that he’s on an alien world or how he arrived there.

This was a fun, very fast read.  I thoroughly enjoyed Peter’s character.  I was also pleased with the alien character of Melni, an agent/spy also on the trail of Alice Vale.  The plot was interesting and had a couple of twists and, predictably, it ended on a cliff-hanger.  So, we’ll have to see where the author takes us in the second book.

The review copy included a complete novella that presages Hough’s book “The Darwin Elevator.”  I do not know if it will be included in the final book, I would assume so.  So, it definitely adds value to the book with an additional 134 pages.  ~~  Catherine Book

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