Review for Undertow

Andre Deschenes is a very good assassin—one of the best—but he wants to branch out into the field of “conjuring;” that is, manipulating events by calculating probabilities. He thinks he has the gift, but he can’t find an experienced conjurer willing to take him on as a pupil. Novo Haven, a floating city on the planet of Greene’s World, is the kind of frontier town where people go to hide. The city, and the planet itself, are controlled by the ruthless Charter Trade Company, who have their closely-guarded secrets: the lucrative mineral they’re mining may not be entirely natural, the mining operation itself is on the verge of destroying the planet, and the ranids (the native population species the Company uses as a labor force) are much smarter and more civilized than anyone gives them official credit for being. Meanwhile, Andre Deschenes accepts one last contract against Lucienne Spivak, one of the guerilla operatives attempting to free the ranids from the Company’s control. Unfortunately for Andre, Lucienne was not only the lover of one of the greatest conjurers in the known worlds, but was the best friend of Andre’s own lover. But Lucienne’s death sets into motion events of far greater importance than a few domestic squabbles and Andre and the others find themselves fighting on the same side, attempting to save the world before the Charter Trade Company can destroy it all.Elizabeth Bear has a wonderful way of writing straightforwardly complex plots. Nothing is intentionally obscure or ambiguous, and yet a reader must pay close attention as the story unfolds and develops. A delightful challenge!
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