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Angelmass    by Timothy Zahn order for
by Timothy Zahn
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

A black hole has been discovered by scientists of the planet Seraph. It is found to be emitting particles, or entities, which strangely affect people close to them. Unbelievably, they become reasonable, calm and virtually incapable of lying. Seraph is one of several worlds with human colonies, the Empyrean, independent of the Earth based empire, the Pax, which is engaged in bringing all human worlds within its control. The Empyrean has developed an industry of catching angels as they have come to be called, and distributing them, first to the government and military, and then to all the influential members of society, hoping to create a new Eden.

The Adjutors, power behind the scenes in the Pax empire, believe the angels to be aliens and a deadly threat to mankind. They enlist a naive academic, Jereko Kostas, and dispatch him on a reconnaissance mission to find the truth about the angels, though his mission is in fact only an unimportant part of their real plan. The first stage of his mission is successful, and Jereko reaches the Empyreal world of Lorelei, and takes ship for Seraph. On board he meets Chandris, a young woman who has grown up as a thief and grifter, but has had to flee her psychopathic mentor and lover in fear of her life.

On Seraph Chandris reluctantly accepts the help of a brother and sister who operate an angel-hunter ship. At first this is only as a means to steal or con money, but she gradually finds her attitudes changing. She also finds that they have an angel on board. Jereko impinges on her life again, and as they discover more disturbing facts about the angels and their source, the black hole called Angelmass, tension between the Empyrean and the Pax increases until open warfare becomes imminent.

Angelmass is fine swashbuckling space opera, crammed with mystery and excitement. It culminates in battles not only in space but hand to hand, as Chandris has to face her fears. The characters, also, are a cut above the usual puppets, which adds a great deal to the interest.

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