Format, premise, and first impressions
Each chapter is introduced in a similar format to first book Residual Belligerence, with the Man and NG’s conversations discussing interstellar affairs around their Guild and rival factions, this time not just with the sloshing of wine in goblets but with the moves of a chess game.
Guild agent LC Anderton has a bounty on his head … and I could be forgiven for believing I was reading the same story as in the first book when an agent had a bounty on his head. Indeed, I had a bit of déjà vu/confusion. Wasn’t it ‘Hil’ who was the guild agent with a bounty on his head in Residual Belligerence? And yes, there were two such agents, and we never saw what LC went through.
Main character LC
LC is a little different from Hil. He has these special mind-reading implants, and can see into the thoughts of fellow crew, often making for humorous insights. LC is not a team player, which is something author CG Hatton reminds us of a lot early on until we read further and realise he really isn’t. On board the ship, the Duck, he’s surrounded by crew he begins to care about after the death of his Guild handler, and they humanise him. This makes him vulnerable, having to care about their whereabouts on missions, and he’s getting emotionally closer to female bounty hunter Sean, who is determined to return him to the Guild. Sean was a fascinating character with many sides to her: seductive, bargaining, and dangerous; and able to compartmentalise feelings. She does change a bit. LC has an advantage over her, with mind-reading her thoughts, and his holding off only makes her want him more.
Improvement on book one Residual Belligerence
There is a lot of macho ironic humour, about near-death experiences, unintentionally drinking with drugs, and use of language such as a ‘s**t-eating grin on his face’. We get close to the characters of the crew: drunk DiMarco, weary Gallagher, creepy tech. Also, LC was less useless than Hil was, perhaps because of his implants, gadgets, and fewer serious injuries. You could be forgiven for believing you’re reading about wacky and entertaining space opera misadventures until it hits you there really are bounty hunters all over the galaxy looking for LC, Hil, and ‘the package’. Gallagher puts it succinctly: ‘I’ve been shot down by b*****d aliens, set up by double-dealing b*****d mobsters, attacked by corporate b*****d mercenaries, and hijacked by b*****d pirates. Is there a pattern here, do you reckon?’