Orbit, out now
Life’s never dull for former Tracer Riley Hale on Outer Earth – with blackmail, bombs and the outbreak of a deadly virus that is devastating the population of the space station…
Rob Boffard’s sequel to his debut novel Tracer is set some time after the climax of that story, in which young Riley had to kill her own father in order to save everyone else she knows and loves. Patricide has, understandably, had an effect on her and there’s an astute comment early on in the book that she’s changed – quite often in ways that she doesn’t realise herself, but which Boffard brings out in the chaptersm that Riley narrates. It’s not so much that she’s an unreliable narrator as one who hides aspects of her personality from herself and doesn’t realise quite what she’s doing and how it comes across to others.
The third person POV chapters are divided between Riley’s lover Prakesh – another person whose ability to see a wider picture isn’t always as present as it could be, given his position – and the villain of the piece, who implants bombs in Riley’s legs and believes (correctly) that this gives him power over her. Morgan’s perhaps not as well-developed a character as he could be but like its predecessor, this is more of a plot than character driven book and we certainly have no doubts about his plans or desire to carry them out.
And driven the plot certainly is – at high speed for the vast majority of the time. It does feel as if Boffard is paying tribute to the adventure serials of the 1930s and 40s – every chapter, pretty much, finishes on a cliffhanger and while this breathless atmosphere is appropriate, particularly for the last act, a few more moments of calm in the next book wouldn’t go amiss.
Verdict: Boffard has produced a taut and exciting novel, which extrapolates sensibly from the ideas in the first, and sets the stage for an epic finale. 8/10