Review by Andrew Stickland
In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, rogue traders are the equivalent of frontier merchants, though on a much, much larger scale. In Rogue Star we meet one such merchant family, the Arcadius, who have fallen on hard times and are seeking to recover their fortune with a vague contract with the governor of a world right on the very fringes of the Imperial domain. Lucian Gerrit, head of the family, and his two children, Korvane and Brielle, must negotiate their way through a complicated and long-running feud between rival planets, secure their financial future and avoid becoming the target of alien mercenaries.
Despite the efforts of the last three Star Wars films, there’s no real reason why a story based around complicated trade negotiations can’t be exciting and captivating. Sadly, Rogue Star doesn’t do much to help the pro-trade lobby. The storyline really doesn’t go anywhere interesting – although it takes an awfully long time not getting there – and by the time the plot has fully unfolded, you’re wondering something along the lines of, ‘what’s the point?’
Also, the three main characters, Lucian and his two offspring, begin the story as vaguely unsympathetic and spend the remainder of the book becoming even more so. Why the reader should feel any urge to identify with them is uncertain and the fact that they are not blown up in a catastrophic explosion of their own making came as something of a disappointment to me.
And then quite suddenly, with only 25 pages of the book remaining, everything clicks into place – though not, sadly, in a good way. After twelve chapters of dull plotting, we are treated to an exciting chapter-long space battle which clearly began life as a separate short story. Suddenly, the reader realises that the whole of the book up till this point was nothing but a crude attempt to set the scene so that the short story could be dumped into a larger context in order to turn it into something that could be sold as a novel.
At the back of the book we are told that Andy Hoare is a games designer and developer whose previous publication was a background sourcebook. In a way, Rogue Star is something similar. We are given a colourful background for the Arcadius family, a detailed description of the planet Mundus Chasmata and its society, we learn something of the nature of battles between fleets of starships and we are introduced to some one-dimensional supporting characters. This would be fine as a source of background information for a role-playing session, but as a novel, it’s something of a damp squib.
Black Library £6.99/$7.99. This review originally appeared in Prism.