I see that China Mieville has a new book coming out soon, so I figured I should read the Mieville book I already own (Perdido Street Station) to find out if I like his writing well enough to buy the next book on sight.

Then I decided that I wasn't in the mood for another dark, quirky urban fantasy -- but I did like my initial goal of reading an author I haven't had a chance to check out yet. So, I ended up picking up James Alan Gardner's Expendable .

The book has an immediate high-concept hook: You know the red-shirts on Star Trek? The ones who get killed on the away team missions? This is their story. The Explorers (chosen from the ugly, deformed, and misfit) go down to potentially dangerous new planets, and scout things out -- and Our Heroes have just been sent on a mission to the one planet that no Explorer has ever come back from.

This is precisely the kind of book that I enjoy -- it's got a solid, interesting background; it's got a reasonably twisty plot; it's got puzzles that keep you reading, looking for the solution; and it's got some fun characters. If I hadn't already referred to Lois Bujold as Dave Duncan In Spaaaace, I might use that phrase to describe this book.

Quibbles? Okay, a few: there are a few too many coincidences for my liking, though still well within the bounds of reasonability; and the solution to all the puzzles aren't quite as satisfying as one might have hoped.

Those are quibbles, though, because this was a smashingly fun book; I just hope that Gardner didn't blow all his creative energy on his first novel, because I definitely intend to read his other stuff.


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