Quick Review: THE GHOST LINE by (Tor.com)

grayherbison-ghostlineAn interesting mystery of sci-fi exploration

The Martian Queen was the Titanic of the stars before it was decommissioned, set to drift back and forth between Earth and Mars on the off-chance that reclaiming it ever became profitable for the owners. For Saga and her husband Michel the cruise ship represents a massive payday. Hacking and stealing the ship could earn them enough to settle down, have children, and pay for the treatments to save Saga’s mother’s life.

But the Martian Queen is much more than their employer has told them. In the twenty years since it was abandoned, something strange and dangerous has come to reside in the decadent vessel. Saga feels herself being drawn into a spider’s web, and must navigate the traps and lures of an awakening intelligence if she wants to go home again.

This was a pretty interesting tale. The characters have ventured out into space to hijack and divert a moth-balled luxury space-liner. Sounds like it might be pretty straightforward? Nope.

I’m of two minds about The Ghost Line. There were many things I enjoyed — the characters, for example, are all well-rounded, and well-written. They all felt real and were engaging guides into this fictional future. Through Saga’s anxieties, we learn more about how things work in this setting. Her mother is sick, dying back on Earth, and all she wants to do is get home to comfort her — while, at the same time, needing this Martian Queen gig in order to pay for new treatments. Meanwhile, their recruiter has an agenda she’s keeping very close to her chest (at the expense of trust); and their pilot is a drunk. The story unfolds as they explore the ship, and attempt to gain access to its central controls. Meanwhile, is it possible that there’s something else on board…?

The story itself was interesting, if uneven. There were times when I was gripped, and happily read on, but there were also other times when I felt my attention wasn’t being held. I’m not exactly sure why I struggled to keep focused. The ‘suspense’ was maybe not as well-composed as it perhaps could have been. This could have been the result of the novella’s length — maybe we needed longer for the sense of foreboding to build and develop? Because it was relatively short, I feel I never got swept up by the nostalgic impression of the Martian Queen, which had many echoes of the Titanic and other luxury liners, as well as other classic examples of sci-fi pleasure-liners. The ending was certainly interesting (and maybe also leaves room for expansion in a sequel), but everything seemed to be wrapped up pretty quickly.

If you’re a fan of sci-fi, then I’d certainly recommend you give the story a try. There are plenty of interesting things going on, and the authors never bury the story with techno-jargon (faux or real). I’m definitely looking forward to reading their next piece of work, whatever that may turn out to be.

*

Andrew Neil Gray and J.S. Herbison’s The Ghost Line is published by Tor.com next week (US and UK).

Follow the Authors: Website — Gray, Herbison; Goodreads — Gray, Herbison;
Twitter (Gary)

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