Judgment At Proteus
By Timothy Zahn
The final installment of the Quadrail series, starring Frank Compton and his companion Bayta, arcs on a near epic scale. Once again Zahn delivers a tension filled train adventure across the stars with more twists than a tornado. It is hard to get into specifics without throwing out spoilers but with an adroitness that is characteristic of Mr. Zahn, Compton’s catalog of friends and enemies gets shuffled and re-dealt, in a surprising and intricate fashion.
Mr. Zahn is an expert at creating accomplice characters who are not motivated by bland loyalty to the hero, but through their own self interest, and Compton is an expert at manipulating them into doing what he wants. In fact, this last novel really establishes that Compton is NOT the stereotypical white-hat hero and ropes in an even grittier noir-ish feel to the whole series.
In other words, the book was excellent and I can only list one gripe with it.
It has the feel of two novels crammed into one. There is a grand finale where Compton is put against the wall, his allies are systematically stripped from him, and yet is able to triumph through his demonstrated ability to predict his enemies actions and plan to counter them. Then the novel continues as he plays cat and mouse with his remaining opponents until the final climax which, in all honesty, felt a little flat. Especially for Compton. While in the aftermath all is explained and a plan is revealed which has more layers and wrinkles than an onion, the final victory is not, in fact Compton’s.
On the flip side, and I’m certain the ladies in the audience will really be excited for this, the relationship between Compton and Bayta is addressed in more detail than in all the other books combined. It, along with all the other threads from the previous four books are pulled together and neatly (for the most part) tied off.
Final Verdict: If you enjoy noir, science fiction, or thrillers, then I highly recommend giving this book a read.