The Prison in Antares
By Mike Resnick
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
Set in the 41st century, The Prison in Antares focuses on a rag-tag group of specialists assigned to a dangerous mission. Nathan Pretorius, recuperating in the hospital following his last mission, has a meeting with a general. General Wilbur Cooper tells him the Democracy’s top scientist has been kidnapped by the Coalition. The scientist, Edgar Nmumba, has knowledge about how to stop the Coalition’s deadliest weapon, the Q bomb, capable of killing a billion people. After the meeting, Pretorius assembles his team, including an alien shape-changer, a man with super-strong bionic arms, an empath, and a psychiatrist. The novel clips along at a fast pace and has some witty dialogue. It was fun reading a stripped-down military science fiction thriller. In a genre where authors can mistake page count for profundity, reading something short and sweet was great. And the plot couldn’t be simpler. Or to quote the Coen Brothers movie, Barton Fink, “Wallace Beery. Wrestling picture. What do you need, a roadmap?”
My only real demerit for the novel was its style, or lack thereof. Everything else – plotting, character, pacing – was spot-on. The style seemed rather barren. Granted, on a personal level, I’m more a fan of Iain Banks and Storm Constantine, who both have writing shading into the baroque. The style turned a major plot point – the Dead Enders visit an intergalactic brothel to find out information pertinent to their mission – into an utterly unmemorable scene. In a tightly plotted military thriller, there’s a thin line between stripped-down prose and bland writing. Resnick has been compared to old school science fiction writers (read: pre-New Wave science fiction), both to his credit and detriment. The drab style also included depictions of people and technology that came across as downright retrograde. But if you’re a fan of old school military science fiction, this might be the series for you.
I am a big fan of military science fiction and Pyr. As much as this particular book left me bored, I’m a huge fan of Joel Shepherd’s Cassandra Kresnov series (also by Pyr).
Out of 10/5.7, but 8.0 for fans of old school pre-New Wave science fiction.