Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Slanted Jack by Mark L. Van Name
Slanted Jack is the second in the Jon & Lobo series, and picks up slightly after the first episode, One Jump Ahead. Jon is enjoying a leisurely gourmet meal in a spectacular setting on the planet of Mund, when he is joined by an old "friend", Slanted Jack. Jack and Jon used to work con games together, and Jack got his nickname because he was never able to do anything straight.
Jack has a sad story and a proposition for Jon. He's acquired a young ward, Manu, who is reputed to be a native of Pinkelponker, the blockaded world (where Jon was born) that was reputed to be the home of people with special abilities, especially psychic. Manu is a seer, and he suffers from a rare disease that requires expensive treatments, Jack relates. In order to get the money for these treatments, Jack wants to allow Dougat, the leader of a widespread cult that worships all things having to do with Pinkelponker, to interview Manu, a privelege that he is willing to pay dearly for.
Jack doesn't trust Dougat, however, to deal squarely with him, and he hopes to hire Jon to provide backup muscle in case things go wrong. Jon is tempted by the idea of helping the boy, and agrees to help Jack, even though he knows there's a scam in the works, somewhere.
Along the way to meet with Dougat, Jon is accosted by some thugs in the hire of Chaplat, a local gangster to whom Jack owes money, and after a tense meeting with Chaplat, agrees to "find" and bring Jack to him to pay his debts. The meeting itself goes horribly wrong, and Jack, Jon and Manu flee the scene. Along the way out of that mess, Jon has a meeting with a local EC (quasi -government/military force) commander who also has some interest in the situation, and convinces her that he can get Jack, Manu, as well as Chaplat and Dougat, into her clutches.
So Jon is triple-dealing, at least, and things get wild and wacky before all his scams play out. Another good read in the series, looking forward to the next.