Reviewed by Jim Steel
The third volume of Fennâ€™s Hidden Universe space opera series combines disparate elements of the first two but can easily be read without recourse to her earlier novels. The mythical Sidhe, a matriarchal race of psychic mutants, are controlling humanity for their own sinister if elusive ends and Fenn pits a trio of viewpoint characters against them: Nual, a renegade Sidhe; Taro, a punk slum kid; and Jarek, a trader with his own spaceship.
At first the Hidden Universe has all the familiarity of a Bester or Dick novel from the fifties but Fenn introduces some sex to modernise the template (and well-written sex at that; no nomination for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award here). The world-building definitely does feel somewhat seat-of-the-pants at times. Two of the characters have implants that enable them to fight and even fly, but it doesnâ€™t occur to them to wonder about the power sources. It does occur to the author, though, who later utilises it as a plot device. The same characters are also stranded on a holiday planet modelled a bit too much on Oceania (a joke about â€˜coco nutsâ€™ proves that the author has a sense of humour even if the characters donâ€™t) where they are recruited by local mafia for a mission that they also seem strangely uncurious about. At least it gets the plot moving again after a spell in the doldrums. The less said about the attempts to grapple with information technology the better, though; a walk-on computer expert has OCD and mutters stuff about â€˜mirror wormsâ€™. However, the secret behind interstellar travel is truly disturbing.
All in all, itâ€™s an enjoyable if wobbly thriller which shows that Jaine Fenn is a writer of promise.