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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Big finish to a big story!14 Jun. 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
Timothy Zahn has created a rather different universe to play in, one of the more memorable of his career. This is the concluding book in the series - if you haven't read the previous books, this is not the place to start.
It's science fiction - but it's also a mix of mystery/spy tropes with some romance and adventure as well. Zahn has come up with a future where humanity is just a minor player among a number of species who engage in commerce across a galaxy linked by the Quadrail - trains that operate through a kind of hyperspace between star systems, run by a mysterious race called the spiders. The stars are now only hours, days, or weeks apart. Think of classic movies involving trains, exotic destinations, colorful characters, damsels in distress, spies, people with hidden agendas, deadly mysteries - and then drop in all kinds of aliens, high tech gadgets, and more than a dash of film noir atmosphere.
The first novel in the series, Night Train to Rigel, sets the tone. Frank Compton, a former intelligence agent at loose ends because his investigations unraveled some schemes by the rich and powerful, finds himself offered a job by the Spiders to track down some disturbing threats against the Quadrail system. They assign him a partner, a human female named Bayta who doesn't seem to quite have all the normal nuances of being human down quite right, and secrets of her own. Not to mention the story starts with a man dying at Compton's feet while trying to pass on a message...
Through the five books of the series, there's an ever growing trail of bodies, charges and counter charges of murder, discovery of lie upon lie, secret upon secret, and slow revelation of a danger to not just the Quadrail but all the races who ride it. Compton's original job tracking a vague threat has become an epic struggle. Meanwhile, his relationship with Bayta takes some twists and turns as he fills in gaps in her knowledge about intelligence work, dealing with deadly threats, the finer points of alien cuisine, and the lessons to be learned from such human classics as Casablanca, the 39 Steps, the Lady Vanishes.... And if that's not enough, Compton's employers seem to find his success as much of a threat as the dangers he's struggling against.
Judgement at Proteus takes Compton and Bayta right to the heart of the conspiracy they've been uncovering. Genetic engineering, mind control, deadly gadgets, deadlier foes - Compton finds himself transformed almost against his will from a lone agent into the axis upon which all efforts to counter the enemy's moves turn. Further, the man who started out an embittered loner is now finding himself drawn ever more strongly to his partner. Reversal upon reversal, revelation upon revelation, crisis after crisis - Zahn keeps ratcheting up the tension as Compton is forced to use all of his resourcefulness to survive while also keeping his eyes and ears open to pick up the clues around him as he develops a plan to stop the enemy he and Bayta have uncovered before that enemy can achieve a final victory that will throw the galaxy into slavery.
Zahn has developed a talent for creating worlds with specific elements, then using those elements to build the story. Details count; clues are everywhere, and Zahn's characters succeed or fail on their ability to note the puzzle pieces around them and assemble them into the larger picture. The Quadrail series takes that to new heights. Compton can comment on something in such a way that you don't realize the larger implications until he shows you how it all fits together later on in the story. If you enjoy murder mysteries and puzzles in general, you'll find plenty of that here, along with some good science fiction.
The five books of the series: Night Train to Rigel, The Third Lynx, Odd Girl Out, The Domino Pattern, and Judgement at Proteus could make an awesome miniseries. Think Masterpiece Theater crossed with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, add in a dash of Bogart, a dollop of Murder on the Orient Express, a slice of Indiana Jones with the promenade from Deep Space Nine, and you begin to get an idea of the epic tale Zahn concludes in this book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
"I had a plan, all right, ... I was also pretty sure no one on my list of allies was going to like it."16 Jun. 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
Judgment at Proteus is the fifth and final book in Timothy Zahn's Quadrail series. While a complete story in it's own right, it draws on and ties up some many things from previous books it's extremely ill-advised to start here - go back to the beginning if you're new to the series (Night Train to Rigel).
** This review will not contain spoilers for Judgment at Proteus, but will have MAJOR ones for earlier books in the series. **
Over the course of the previous four books ex-military expert from Earth Frank Compton, his partner and half alien Bayta, and their few allies have been engaged in a constantly escalating secret war against the Mohdri, a telepathic parasite designed to be the greatest weapon of a long dead civilization that fell before getting to activate it. As Frank and Bayta traveled towards Fillian space, the one species they thought off limits for the Mohdri, they received two extremely unpleasant surprises: infected Fillies, and the revelation that the long dead civilization called the Shonkla-raa was not a distinct species but rather a genetic manipulation of the Fillies. And they've been brought back...
This is where Judgment at Proteus begins, and the story that follows expertly builds off of everything that proceeded. After the end of The Domino Pattern I was surprised to hear there would only be one more book in the series, but Zahn provides a fantastic conclusion here that never feels rushed. I won't get into plot details as spoiling anything would be a disservice, but it all worked wonderfully and I was enthralled from start to finish.
Everything is logical and well explained, but the best part is how often Zahn still managed to surprise me. A perfect balance of mystery and foreshadowing is achieved - I can't count the number of times I'd finally put something together only to instantly remember all the things that were in retrospect clues and think "I can't believe I didn't notice that sooner." I love that feeling when reading engaging, well layered stories and Judgment certainly fits the bill.
Zahn has saved the best for last here. Judgment at Proteus is a phenomenal end to an already impressive series.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The New Empire18 July 2012
Arthur W Jordin
- Published on Amazon.com
Judgment at Proteus (2012) is the fifth SF novel in the Quadrail series, following The Domino Pattern. The initial work in this series is Night Train to Rigel.
In the previous volume, Compton and Bayta were taking the superexpress train to the other side of the galaxy. They had business within Filiaelian space. They were both concerned about being on the train for six weeks, although the other options would only take longer. Who knew how many Modhri Eyes and Walkers would be aboard?
Compton noticed a human shepherding some Fillies into the train and wondered who he was. He didn't have an opportunity to learn the man's name until two weeks later. Bayta awakened him with word that there had been a poisoning on the train.
Since the Spiders had very thorough sensing equipment in every station, no passengers should have been able to smuggle any poison aboard the train. Compton learned that the victim is a Shorshian, who are very susceptible to even slight amounts of poison.
In this novel, Frank Compton is a former agent of Western Alliance Intelligence. Now he works for the Chahwyn, who created the Spiders and the whole Quadrail system. He is their chief operative against the Modhri.
Bayta is a hybrid of human and Chahwyn. She is telepathic on the spider wavelength and can communicate with them undetectably. So she is Compton's liaison with the Spiders.
Terese German is a human teenager with genetic problems. She is also pregnant after an attack on Earth.
Emikai is a Filiaelian. He is a former cop and genetically modified for loyalty to the higher castes as well as strength and endurance.
Aronobal is a Filiaelian. She is a doctor accompanying Terese to Proteus Station.
Muzzfor was a Filiaelian. He was also a Shonkla-raa, a genetically recreated version of a tyrannical species supposed dead and gone long ago.
Hchchu is a Filiaelian. He is assistant director of Kuzyatru -- Proteus -- Station.
Wandek is a Filiaelian. He is a doctor on Proteus Station.
Minnario is a Nemut. He is deaf and disabled, using a thruster cart to get around.
In this story, the train is approaching Proteus Station in Filiaelian space. Compton is spending the time learning unarmed combat against Filiaelians. Emikai is showing him the most vulnerable points on a Filly body. Yet he also mentions that professional fighters have these vulnerabilities moved or removed.
They have just enough time for Compton to try a new counter to a hold. He falls forward and Emikai goes over him and would have fallen onto Compton's elbow if Frank hadn't carefully moved it aside. Emikai points out that Compton would still be under his opponent's body, but Frank suggests that it would be better than the alternative.
Emikai then asks him what he will tell the director and santras -- high castes -- of Proteus Station about the death of Asantra Muzzfor. Naturally Compton says that he will tell the truth. Though when Bayta asks the same question, he replies that he will carefully avoid telling the whole truth.
After arriving at the Tube station, Compton and Bayta join Emikai, Terese and Aronobal near the shuttle bays and they board a shuttle. The hatch remains open until another passenger is lowered into the shuttle in a support chair by a couple of bug drudge Spiders. Compton recognizes Minnario from the super-express train.
At Kuzyatru Station, an older Filly introduces himself as Chinzro Hchchu and tells Frank that he is under arrest for murder. Two local police take hold of Compton and another grips Bayta. With Compton loudly insisting that there must be some sort of mistake, they are marched across the concourse toward a private office.
Emikai asks about the charges and Hchchu informs him that six members of the Filiaelian Assembly were murdered. Minnario protests the charges and volunteers as Compton's legal defender.
Compton belatedly recognizes one of the names and remembers the incident on New Tigris. Bayta and he had been attacked by six Fillies. Four of the Fillies had died in a firefight with the local police, but he had only killed one of them.
Hchchu's men frisk Frank and search Bayta and his luggage. They set aside various suspicious items, including Frank's piston and ID. Then Hchchu assigns two msikai-dorosli -- dog-like animals -- to follow Frank everywhere to prevent him from harming anyone else. Frank names them Doug and Ty.
Guided by Doug and Ty, Compton and Bayta go to the room assigned to Terese. They are just in time to accompany Terese and Aronobal to see Terese's doctor. The receptionist sends them to Building Eight.
Wandek meets them inside and has Aronobal take Terese for tests. He clamps his hand on Compton's arm and pulled Frank to Building Twelve. There Compton meets ten Shonkla-raa, who have questions about his contact with Asantra Muzzfor.
This tale puts Compton and Bayta in the middle of the new Shonkla-raa movement. Fortunately, they have allies, including the Modhri. But Terese is not happy.
This is the final volume in the Quadrail series. If you enjoyed this sequence, check out the Cobra, Conquerors and Blackcollar series.
Highly recommended for Zahn fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of covert operations, alien technology, and a bit of romance. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
New low in e-book editing15 July 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
It is unfortunate that Amazon does not give the capability to distinguish between print and e-books, but this review only applies to the e-book version of this work and not to Mr. Zahn's story.
Note the suggested price of $4.99 for the e-book version of a new hard-back. It indicates that it is possible to botch the editing badly enough to embarrass the publishers - but not badly enough to get them to fix it.
Roughly 20% of thespacesbetweenwords are missing from this mess - and to call the formatting inconsistent is to compliment it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A great finish to a great series.19 July 2012
William D. Jackson
- Published on Amazon.com
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the Quadrail series by Timothy Zahn. I eagerly waited for and purchased each book in the series when it came out in hardback because there was no way I was going to wait for the paperback version! My all time favorite Timothy Zahn book is probably "The Icarus Hunt", and the main character in that book, Jordan McKell, reminds me of the main character in the Quadrail series, Frank Compton. The Icarus Hunt was a standalone book but I always wanted more stories based on those characters. The Quadrail series satisfied that itch by creating a similar hero surrounded by equally alien and interesting characters spread across the galaxy. Judgment at Proteus was a grand conclusion to the series that brought back all of our favorite characters that we met along the way. Twists, turns, and a conclusion that keeps you guessing until the end. This book was a lot like a runaway train ride - it slowly built momentum until it was moving so fast that you weren't sure it was going to stay on the rails. And then ... well,you just have to read it for yourself. Great fun!