Review: Judgment at Proteus, by Timothy Zahn

Judgment at Proteus cover artJudgment at Proteus, by Timothy Zahn (Tor Books, 2012)

What’s worse than an alien hive-mind entity that plants itself in unsuspecting individuals and wants to rule the galaxy? Try the super-race that designed it and will turn it into a weapon to ensure galactic domination.

Judgment at Proteus is the final instalment in Timothy Zahn’s Quadrail series. The Quadrail is an interstellar train travelling a light-year a minute to connect far-flung solar systems, and Humans are one of the smaller (and newer) groups of life-forms that use it. But it’s a human, Frank Compton, who has the skill to—possibly—stop the war that most galactic citizens don’t even know is raging.

The aliens and their cultures are intricately developed and very different from us. Perhaps that’s why Frank throws out the occasional reference to old Earth entertainment like Casablanca, to give readers something familiar.

Judgment at Proteus picks up four weeks after the events of The Domino Pattern, where Frank Compton and the Modhri group mind formed a temporary alliance against the Shonkla-raa.

As a finale, this book has to end it all. The stakes are higher than “how will Frank and Bayta get out of this one?” The question is more like “how can there be peace in the galaxy, with so many enemies on the loose?” And what kind of impressive twist ending awaits?

With that in mind, I sat back to read and to enjoy watching a master storyteller at work. Plots, plans, intrigue, chases and twists, Judgment at Proteus has them all and more. And point of view character Frank Compton possesses a dry humour that adds to the fun.

The Quadrail series spans five books that happen over two years. It’s a progressive series where each instalment builds on the last. You can jump on the train with book five and everything you need will be explained as needed, but if you have the time, start with book one, Night Train to Rigel. You’ll be glad you did.

Timothy Zahn is an award-winning author of original science fiction, Star Wars fiction and a couple of Terminator novelizations. He’s known for believable characters, brilliant tactics, and sure-didn’t-see-that-coming twists. And he does it all with minimal profanity and keeps the stories clean. No wonder he’s my favourite living author.