I know I’ve said it before but I love Tim Zahn’s books. Always have and probably always will. I’ve read everything he’s ever written and I wait with baited breath for the next one. I don’t care what it is. I’ll read it.
So this is the fifth and final book in the Quadrail series, the story of Frank Compton and his quest to ferret out an alien hive mind that threatens to take over the known universe. Can he and his assistant Bayta, with the help of the alien Spiders, actually defeat the Modhri? Let’s find out in this review of Judgement at Proteus.
Picking up a month after the end of the previous book, The Domino Pattern, Frank and the Modhri have formed an uneasy partnership to defeat the immediate problem of the Shonkla-raa. But as Frank arrives on the Filiaelian world of Proteus, he is arrested for six murders, none of which he actually committed (well, maybe one, but who can be sure?) as the Shonkla-raa make a move to remove Frank and Bayta from the picture. Can Frank beat the murder rap and actually uncover the truth?
Timothy Zahn is a master of complex and intricate plots and fascinating characters, even bit characters become memorable in his more than capable hands. But there are so many mysteries unsolved at the beginning of the book that I had a feeling it would be hard to wrap them all up in a nice, neat little bow and I was unfortunately correct. The first half of the book is a bit slow, it concerns the Filiaelian legal system and the trial and the machinations of the Shonkla-raa, it isn’t overly action packed, which it certainly doesn’t have to be, but I did feel it was a bit too slow. This is, of course, made up for in the second half, which becomes a ton of fights against the Shonkla-raa, with the Modhri on his side, until we find out who is really behind all of the trouble in the galaxy and it is a surprise to say the least.
But unfortunately, the final reveal is somewhat of a letdown, perhaps because we never really got to know much about the ultimate big baddies. We spent so much time getting to know the Mohdri and then the Shonkla-raa, that in the end, we’re left really not knowing many details about the ones pulling the strings. There could have been an entire book just exploring this particular race that might have answered some of the questions I ended up with.
Still, like all Zahn books, this is a page-turner, I never wanted to walk away from it, even though it is a pretty long book. I burned through it in just a few days, which is the mark of an excellent read. But in the end, I was left wanting to know more, but without the prospect of having another book coming out.
I am going to highly recommend this series, but you have to go back to the beginning and read them all in order. Even though I think this final book could have been stronger, it was still a very enjoyable read that has all of the hallmarks of Timothy Zahn’s genius. Two thumbs up.