Taken by Force
Richard Harland

Cover ĎTaken by Forceí is the second Eddon and Vail novel. It features Vail ev Vessintor, Parapsych Assitant and ummÖ Vail ev Vessintor, Parapsych Assistant. Hmm, somethingís not right here. Letís try that again. It features Vail ev Vessintor and Vail ev Vessintor. Hey, where the hell is Eddon?

As you might have guessed Eddon doesnít play a big role in this book. He appears in chapter 4 from page 21 to 26. He then spends the next 460 odd pages as an ice-cube and finally pops up on page 491, just in time to save the day and participate in the escape.

So since the story isnít about Eddon and Vail what is it about? Well on the way back to Central from planet P-19 (this is where the first book ĎThe Dark Edgeí is set) The ship is captured by a bunch of marauders called the ĎCurs of Spaceí. As you might expect these are not a group of intellectual pacifists. Fortunately though one of them is more insane then the rest and is improving the gene pool by brutally hacking all his fellow Curs into little bits. Needless to say the head honcho, the Max, isnít terribly pleased about his empire crumbling. Vail persuades the Max that she can find the killer for him if she isnít raped and murdered, and so begins the investigation.

From this setup it becomes obvious that the investigation isnít going to run smoothly. Firstly all of Vailís equipment has been trashed by her Luddite hosts and secondly everyone she has to investigate and interview is more interested in trying to rape her then helping her find the killer.

The situation is inherently tense, but begins to wear thin towards the end. The frequency with which Vail avoids rape because some lucky third party intervenes (a dismembered corpse is found, the lights are out, Eddon turns up) goes well beyond believability. Itís not that I wanted Vail to get raped, but the number of times she escapes by chance becomes farcical. Nobody is that lucky.

This book is a vast improvement over the first in the loss of the character Beano (see my other review for why this is a big improvement). The replacement Flightmen are normal (by which I mean not hackneyed. No-one in this book is exactly 'normal') characters who fit into the overall story well.

The overall plot is better thought out then the earlier book. It took two thirds of the book for me to guess what was going on. Although this could partly be due to me not wanting the ending to be what it is. I canít say more with out giving the plot away.

The tension at the climax of the book is destroyed by a totally ludicrous scene where taking five deep breathes allows you to walk twenty metres through a hard vacuum, climb a set of stairs, open an airlock and have such thick, treacly air inside the lock that there is enough to breathe, even though the door is open to a vacuum. Is it just me or do you think this is a little unlikely as well?

Now given these problems why did I give it three stars? Because itís enjoyable to read. Richard has a knack for describing scenery and characters that allows a lot of the flaws to be overlooked while youíre reading. It wasnít until the silly bit I mentioned above that it occurred to me that the asteroid the story is set on has Earth normal gravity.

All the characters in this book are well rounded. Insane, disgusting and perverted, but in a well rounded manner. Throughout the book the description of the Curs habitat was well handled. I always knew exactly where the characters were in relationship to each other and the various rooms and sections of the habitat. Richard's skill here makes the map in the front unnecessary. The place was vibrant and detailed. A real place.

The primary reason this book works for me is due to Vail. She is in a desperate situation with which it is easy to sympathise. She spends most of her time being insulted and jeered at, with moments of terror trying to avoid being raped. Yet amongst all of this she does manage to extract some small moments of revenge on the Curs.

The book has been used well to give a greater insight into Vail and her past, building her character in detail for the rest of the series. The relationship, which was consumated betwen Eddon and Vail at the end of ĎThe Dark Edgeí, is set back into its proper place at the end of this novel. They overtly hate each other again, while still being unable to tear themselves away from each other. The sexual tension of the first book will be running rampant in the next one. Yippee!

So while the book has flaws itís still worth reading. It is very entertaining. Does a book really need to be more than that? Iím looking forward to the next Eddon and Vail adventure, even though I havenít given this one a glowing review.