A stand-alone SF book.

Publication year: 2007
Format: print
Page count: 333 + an excerpt of Dust
Publisher: Bantam Spectra

André Deschenes is an assassin but he wants to be more. He’s convinced that he has the talent for “luck” or altering the probabilities of his own actions or even somebody else’s. He lives on Greene’s World, an alien planet where humans have started a mining operation. Most of the humans on the planet are working for the Charter Trade Company which is ruthlessly exploiting the local aliens and the planet. André does assassination for them. He comes from a family of conjurers, as the people who can alter probabilities are called, but he thinks that they are charlatans and want nothing to do with them. Instead, he seeks out Jean Kroc who is supposed to be a very powerful conjurer. He wants to be Jean’s apprentice. Unfortunately, he’s also contracted to kill Jean’s lover, Lucienne. Then there’s Cricket, André’s not-girlfriend and Lucienne’s and Jean’s friend. Cricket is an archinformist who specializes in finding information and doesn’t want any attachments.

Once again, I was fascinated by the world-building. The aliens are a peaceful, aquatic, egg laying humanoids whom the humans have classified as pre-industrial and therefore the humans can use their planet. The humans call them ranids or frogs but the aliens call themselves people. The ranids don’t have social genders and instead of he/she they use “se”. However, they do have endoparents and exoparents and have two different ways of defining a family. The whole greatparents thing was also fascinating. The humans exploit them ruthlessly but don’t want anyone telling that to the wider media. Oh, and they don’t speak in human way. Instead, they use tablet like devices to write out what they want to say and some have learned to lip read humans.

Undertow uses quantum physics in as part of the world-building and I’m not sure I even understood that part. But what I understood I really liked. However, I didn’t really connect with any of the human characters but I would love to get another story about the ranids to see how the ending affected them.

The book has somewhat slow start but once the plot starts rolling, it’s a rollercoaster ride to the end.