Monday, February 25, 2019

The Lost Artifact

The Lost Artifact by Vaughn Heppner

The eighth installment of author Vaughn Heppner’s Lost Starship series opens with the android Yen Cho hunting an assassin, with the Swarm Imperium intending to conquer Earth, as well. An interesting break from other science-fiction stories mentioned early on is that Human Space is ruled by multiple political entities dependent upon culture. The main text following the prologue opens ninety-seven days later at Smade’s Asteroid, where primary protagonist Captain Maddox is held prisoner, with an implant having been surgically inputted into his brain, although he attempts escape, a pirate base occupying the mentioned celestial body.

Finlay Bow is Maddox’ key to escape from the Asteroid, and in the meantime, a clone of the Methuselah Man Strand awakens and vows vengeance against Maddox. Yen Cho the crew of the Victory ultimately captures, with regular interrogations for intelligence. The ancient Adok starship ultimately comes into the orbit of the planet Gideon II, where they find a Builder robot who also serves as a source for information. Strand has sporadic confrontations with the Victory, at one point sending a virus aboard the ship to weaken its systems, with AI Galyan seeking to retain control, and at some points departing the vessel’s systems in a robotic form.

The second half of the story devotes several chapters to Commodore von Helmuth and the Hindenburgers aboard the rogue ship Bismarck, who feel ostracized by the Windsor League and confront the Victory as well. Maddox ultimately has to deal with the clone Strand again, with the novel ending satisfactorily, and sure to please fans of its predecessors, although those new to the series will definitely want to start from the beginning of the franchise. As with a few prior novels, moreover, the twist of duplicate characters plays some role, although this reviewer definitely found the book a bright spot in independent science-fiction.

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