Friday, July 22, 2011

Review: Jump Gate Twist

Jump Gate Twist
Jump Gate Twist by Mark L. Van Name

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Full disclosure, I have met the author, Mark Van Name, in a professional setting. The company with which I am employed has a working relationship with his company, Principled Technologies. I received a copy of Jump Gate Twist as a gift after meeting with him and the company's other founder, Bill Catchings. Prior to our meeting, I had no knowledge of Mr. Van Name, and prior to receiving this book, I was not aware that he was a published science-fiction author. My copy of the book is signed by the author and has a nice sticker on the inside front cover with my name. I would like to thank Mark and Principled Technologies for the gift. That being stated, I had no expectations for the book. I was a huge fan of science fiction when I was younger, but as I have grown older, my tastes have ventured into other areas, currently spy fiction, particularly James Bond novels, and hardboiled crime fiction.

The book is compilation of two novels and two short stories plus additional tidbits from the author. The main protagonist is Jon Moore who was mentally challenged as child due to some unique properties of his home planet. Jon's first change is the subject of the first short story, "My Sister, My Self." His enhancement was done by his sister with healing powers that were the result of the same properties of their world. At some later point, Jon's body is further enhanced with nanotechnology as part of a corporate experiment which eventually goes awry and possibly makes his home world uninhabitable. That topic is only covered piecemeal in various flashbacks throughout the two novels. Returning to his home planet and finding his lost sister are Jon's overall goals in the series which currently includes four novels.

In the first novel, One Jump Ahead, Jon finds an intelligent attack vehicle named Lobo which has been left as a monument in a city square on a far outpost world. Lobo has its (or "his" since Jon comes to refer to Lobo in the masculine) own back-story in which he was damaged in battle. Through some negotiation, Jon is able to acquire Lobo from the head of the planet for services rendered. He is later able to have the damaged ship repaired. The main plot of the novel is the rescue of a kidnapped girl that comes to involve a couple of competing megacorporations and a less-than-forthright arms dealer.

The second novel, Slanted Jack, has even more twists and turns than the first. The Jack from the title is an accomplished con man who reappears from Jon's past. Jon agrees to help with protecting a gifted boy whose family originated from Jon's lost home world. After the initial plan falls apart, Jon has to run an intricate triple con that involves a mobster, a group of religious fanatics with a stash of weapons, and the local government who wants to catch both. The boy and Jon's not-quite-friend Jack serve as bait in the scheme.

Finally, the second short story, "Lobo, Actually," focuses only on Lobo and takes place during his period of downtime in the city square. It is a Christmas story that explores some interesting thoughts on religion and deity. The story is also interesting in that it is told from Lobo's point of view and not that of a human.

Overall, I found Jump Gate Twist to be a solid example of space opera, and I mean that in a positive sense. With tons of action and continually unfolding plot twists, Jon Moore very much reminds me of a futuristic James Bond.

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