Reviewed by Jim Steel
The third volume of Fenn’s Hidden Universe space opera series combines disparate elements of the first two but can easily be read without recourse to her earlier novels. The mythical Sidhe, a matriarchal race of psychic mutants, are controlling humanity for their own sinister if elusive ends and Fenn pits a trio of viewpoint characters against them: Nual, a renegade Sidhe; Taro, a punk slum kid; and Jarek, a trader with his own spaceship.
At first the Hidden Universe has all the familiarity of a Bester or Dick novel from the fifties but Fenn introduces some sex to modernise the template (and well-written sex at that; no nomination for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award here). The world-building definitely does feel somewhat seat-of-the-pants at times. Two of the characters have implants that enable them to fight and even fly, but it doesn’t occur to them to wonder about the power sources. It does occur to the author, though, who later utilises it as a plot device. The same characters are also stranded on a holiday planet modelled a bit too much on Oceania (a joke about ‘coco nuts’ proves that the author has a sense of humour even if the characters don’t) where they are recruited by local mafia for a mission that they also seem strangely uncurious about. At least it gets the plot moving again after a spell in the doldrums. The less said about the attempts to grapple with information technology the better, though; a walk-on computer expert has OCD and mutters stuff about ‘mirror worms’. However, the secret behind interstellar travel is truly disturbing.
All in all, it’s an enjoyable if wobbly thriller which shows that Jaine Fenn is a writer of promise.