Book Review 2008 #43: Necropath

My forty third book of the year is *another* ARC (a point I am going to address in a separate post. Anyway, this book is Necropath, a sf novel, the first in a series (of course!), by Eric Brown.

The setting (mostly) is Bengal Station, a starport in the Indian Ocean between Burma and India. The time frame is sometime in the future. Faster than Light travel is a fact of life, as are aliens, and human colonies on other worlds. Bengal Station is a contact point for voidships, the ships that travel between these other planets. It’s a large, labyrinthine construct that reminds one a little bit of a planetbound Babylon 5. The rich, the poor, the desperate, the greedy all come to live and work here.
Jeff Vaughn is a telepath. Augmentations have given him the ability, and the curse, to hear other people’s thoughts. One can make a living scanning for a living, and Vaughn makes a living doing so. He is not so comfortable, though, that he isn’t intimately familiar with the darker sides of Bengal Station. And when a crippled beggar girl turns up dead, Vaughn’s life will not be the same, and his journey to unravel the mystery of her death puts him face to face with a sinister, stars-spanning cult…
It’s a great premise and setting, anyway. Telepaths, aliens, interstellar travel, Thai and Indian culture front and forward, a plot that plausibly could last several novels. The ingredients are all here for something really to enjoy. And yet, for me, it just didn’t work. I wanted to like this novel, and I couldn’t.
First, I didn’t like the main character that much. He’s not a d*ck but I found it difficult to sympathize with him, even given his haunted,dark past. Worse, the characterizations of other characters, major and minor, didn’t work for me either. I couldn’t fathom the relationship between Osborne and Sukara. It felt false to me and seemed to be only a way to get the both of them to Bengal Station.
And the novel completely broke for me when, giving evidence of the problem to the police, Vaughn is at first completely blown off by Commander Sinton as being unreliable and untrustworthy (and naturally not believed)…and then nearly in the same breath, the same officer tries to offer Vaughn a job! It made absolutely no sense and I nearly threw the book against the wall. I can understand for plot reasons (cliches) why the officer would not believe Vaughn, but the sudden whiplash of trying to hook Vaughn into a job in the same debriefing made absolutely no sense.
I think that its more me than the novel and while others might enjoy the book more, I did not. I have no plans on continuing to read the author or of Vaughn’s adventures.