by William C. Dietz
Review by Barry Newton
Ace Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0441013260
Date: 04 October, 2005 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In this grim setting, it takes a particularly courageous or foolhardy person to serve as a courier. Jak Rebo is such a one. A member of the Runner's Guild, he and his brethren maintain a thin line of communication among the planets, when no trip is certain of reaching a destination.
Following a grim and short-lived mission where he is introduced to the reader, Jak accepts an assignment to transport a young boy to the home world of his religion, which bears a more than passing resemblance to Tibetan Buddhism. Tra Lee, the boy, is to be tested to determine whether he truly carries the soul of a departed sage and leader. If successful, he will become the titular head of his faith. There is, of course, competition for this honor, and the supporters of the competing claimant will stop at nothing to prevent Tra Lee from even being tested. There is enough mayhem and treachery here to more than make up for the lack of armies in the field.
Jak and his young charge run from planet to planet, each with its own risks and obstacles. They are ably assisted by Lanni Norr, the requisite beautiful woman who is sensitive to other peoples' thoughts, and who communicates with ghosts. Spirits of the departed are very active participants in this story, and one in particular makes his presence--and his agenda--known at extremely inconvenient moments. There are few things quite as annoying as having your body and psyche taken over by an anxious orator when you're trying to skulk quietly through a hostile city.
Runner will lead you on a desperate chase across time and space, where the stakes are literally life and death, and at the finish is enlightenment.