The Prison in Antares (Dead Enders)
by Mike Resnick
Cover Artist: Dave Seeley
Review by Mel Jacob
Pyr Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781633881020
Date: 01 December 2015 List Price $18.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Mike Resnick explores old ground and classic tropes in his new series Dead Enders with a return to a traditional space opera, The Prison in Antares. Short and action packed, it follows a motley team of Men (more than half the team are women), an augmented man, and an odd alien, on a thrilling mission to save the universe from aliens.
Colonel Nathan Pretorious, recovering from his previous assignment, is given a new and even more dangerous one by General Wilbur Cooper. He and his team of Dead Enders are to rescue scientist Edgar Nmumba from the clutches of the Transkeii Coalition before he divulges his method to neutralize the Q bomb. It can kill more than a billion beings at one time. Once they reach Nmumba, they must determine if he has divulged the sensitive information. If not, they are to rescue or kill him.
The Dead Enders first appeared the The Fortress in Orion. They include: Circe (an empath), Pandora (Toni Levi, a computer guru), Felix Ortega (half man and half machine), Snake (Sally Townsend, a contortionist/thief), Proto (an alien shaped like a two foot round pillow who projects images), and Pretorious (the team leader). Cooper has added Iris Fitzhugh nicknamed Irish, a specialist in mind blocks and post-hypnotic suggestions. Her role is to determine whether Nmumba is who he says he is and whether Coalition forces have forced him to reveal his method of blocking the Q-Bomb.
First the team must determine where Nmumba is being held and then rescue him. They learn they have to sneak onto a prison world deep underground and find some way into the prison system. During their first attempt, they get a major surprise, lose one team member, and must regroup.
Resnick tells his tale primarily through dialogue and action with minimal description. It takes place in a setting well defined by Resnick over his long career. In his universe, wormholes are the standard means of travel between distant worlds. There's even one that will take the traveler back in both time and distance to the Earth of the dinosaurs.
Overall, it's an okay read, but not as satisfying as his Weird West series. Short and with a few twists, Resnick rushes to the end. Characters are somewhat stereotypical and one-dimensional. A few nice exchanges at time, but so focused on a fast pace there’s no emotional development. The best of the team is the alien Proto.