When Bothari43 says, “I’ve found a book you’re going to love,” I listen. The Finder is definitely a book I enjoyed. I already ordered the sequel.
Fergus Ferguson has a simple job—repo a spaceship that was stolen during a test drive. He travels to a deep space cluster called Cernee with the protocols he needs to retake the ship and return it to its owner. He’s big, has a red beard and red hair, and stumbles into the internal conflict going on within Cernee, a group of Wheels, Habs, rocks, derelict ships, and sun shields. This loose conglomerate has too many chiefs, all of them poised to take over or destroy the fragmented colony held together by power cables and underhanded tricks.
Upon his arrival, he and Mother, the head of a lichen-growing Wheel of female clones, are attacked. The ship thief is a mafia thug who controls a faction of mercenaries identifiable by their sin tattoos and has decided the old woman is one player he can dispose of without an outcry from the Governor and the other leaders. She saves Fergus and her lichen delivery but is killed. He is delivered to the clone women and interrogated. One, Mari, seems particularly intent upon killing him. He, gentleman that he is, offers to take a clone to deliver the lichen.
He needs to get close enough to the stolen ship to engage its security protocols and figure out the advanced computer’s handshake to gain control of the ship. He concocts a plan with the local munitions dealer to trick the mafia thug into bringing the ship closer so he can initiate the handshake. Mari, spewing insults and ridicule, accompanies him to provide information and constant degradation. Many of the people who meet Fergus have that reaction, even people who’ve just met him. The ragging on Fergus gets tiresome after a while, but he ignores it in good grace and inches closer to the stolen ship.
When his trick to ensnare the thug works, he’s forced to flee, and the thug starts blasting at the various ships and homesteads making up Cernee, and war breaks out. Everyone has their sides, including some aiding the thug, but the munitions dealer is removed from the game when the thug kidnaps his daughter on Mars. To top it off, frightening aliens who have been watching the colony, kidnapping citizens, and sometimes returning them after experimenting on them are lurking nearby in their mysterious triangular ships. Comms are down, many colonists are dead, and the aliens abduct Fergus and do something to him before returning him two days later. Fortunately, they’ve healed the massive injuries he acquired when beaten by the thugs when regaining control of the ship.
This next part seemed a little out of place. While the war is going on and people are dying right and left, Fergus and Mari go to Mars to rescue the daughter, Mari’s friend. I wonder if the editor said “we need another hundred pages” because although they help save the daughter, they immediately drop her off someplace safe and return to Cernee. Because of the comms blackout, the father doesn’t know his daughter is safe, so he’s still not engaging the thug. While on Mars and reliving the death of his friend that he feels responsible for when he fought for Mars freedom, Fergus discovers the aliens have implanted some type of lightning generator in him. This is both a boon and a bother as he electrifies things accidentally, including his exo-suit.
Back in Cernee, the thug has taken over the sunshields and destroyed many of the parts of the colony. He says he will destroy them all unless Fergus and the surviving leaders surrender to him. Fergus, again insulted by practically everyone he meets for no good reason, comes up with a crazy plan to trick the thug when they turn themselves over.
I won’t spoil the clever ending, but young Fergus takes a licking and keeps on ticking. An alien introduces itself to him, telling him to “be interesting.” Too late. He’s already pretty damn interesting and very good at his job as Finder.
I’d probably give this five stars if it wasn’t for the side trip to Mars and the constant Fergus bashing, especially from Mari. While there’s a little bit of character development (he decides to go back and face some of his demons at the end), I think Fergus is like James Bond, and we don’t need or want a character arc. He desires to do his job and hurt as few people as possible along the way.
Can’t wait to start the sequel.