The opening chapter of Veronica Phoenix by Jim Proctor grabbed me and catapulted me into a great and glorious journey with Carl Wilkins, captain of a deep-space salvage vessel. Early on, it becomes clear that poor Carl has not yet learned the lesson that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. However, Carl is a believable character with whom I became invested almost immediately upon meeting him, and I enjoyed this book for its nail-biting adventure and Carl’s personal development as he works his way out of the life-threatening fix he’s ended up in.
I found the prose easy to read, and I appreciated the careful knack Proctor has of navigating the pitfalls of technical details—educating us without overwhelming us with information. His writing style is well crafted, and he moves the story along, handing us new revelations just at the moment when we need them and not before.
I did have a problem with the ending. I felt that Proctor lost focus, skipping over Carl’s redemption, while the ah-ha moment of an unlikable, minor character gained an importance it (and he) didn’t deserve. The writing remained consistent, but the story took a dip there for me.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book to readers of Science Fiction and those who appreciate the character study of a well-defined anti-hero. Proctor has written his finest work yet, and although I could only give it 4 stars because of my personal quibble with the ending, this book is well worth reading.