Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sten by Allan Cole and Chris Bunch

Some collaborators together produce a synergy resulting in something far better than any one of them could do singly. Such is the case with Cole & Bunch, who have been collaborating on books, screenplays and all sorts of other things for a good many years, now. A few years back, they split up and began to write on their own - pity. Nothing they've written since approaches their early works together, though the Seer King, Demon King, Warrior King trilogy by Bunch is showing some promise.

The story of Sten begins on Vulcan, an orbiting manufacturing complex where migrant workers (Migs) labor under horrible conditions for a pay scale which makes them, in effect, indentured servants. The hero of our story, Sten, loses his family in a deep space accident and is graciously allowed to take over his father's job as well as his father's debts by the company which runs the orbital.

Sten figures out that the game is rigged (shades of Tennessee Ernie Ford's Sixteen Tons) and lashes out against the company that has total control over the lives of all the Migs. He joins a ragtag group of rebels hiding in disused corridors and warehouses, but this ultimately proves futile, until he meets an undercover agent of the Eternal Emperor, who has grown curious about some strange happenings in and around Vulcan. The agent, Ian Mahoney of the special forces group, Mantis, recruits Sten to help him investigate the de facto ruler of Vulcan, Baron Thoreson.

The mission goes awry, as such things often do, and Mahoney extracts himself and Sten from Vulcan, dragooning Sten into his Majesty's Imperial Guards - whereby hangs a tale or seven in the series that Cole & Bunch ultimately write.

Sten (the novel and the character) are full of smart-ass comments, fast-paced action, and some often amusing social commentary. I'd highly recommend picking up this book and any others in the series you stumble across.

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