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The Third Lynx by Timothy Zahn
Review by Harriet Klausner
Tor Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765317322
Date: 30 October 2007 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

In the distant future the Twelve Civilizations, of which Earth and her colonies are one, are connected by the quadrail, a transportation system that allows people to get to their destination fast. The Spiders run it and since they are pacifists they don't allow weapons to be transported which means the galaxy is at peace. It is a false peace because unknown to the Twelve Civilizations, the Modhri wants to conquer them by stealth.

The Modhri is a single organism, a group mind with various arms. It is composed of telepathically linked polyps that have the ability to enter a being and take over his or her mind for a while without the person knowing it. Such a person is called a walker and for large periods of time they act under their own influence. The Spiders and the Chahwyn who make the Spiders are the implacable enemies of the Modhri but because they were bred to be passive like the Chahwyn they recruit solders in their silent war. Two such beings are Frank Compton who destroyed an arm of the Modhri (see Night Train to Rigel) and his friend and fallen soldier Batya, who has a special relationship with the Spiders.

While riders the quadrail, Compton hears a dying man who turns out to be a powerful and very wealthy man. His last words involve a sculpture the Lynx which he gave to Daniel Stafford another rich and powerful person. The Modhri targets such influential men throughout the Twelve Civilizations so the Modhri will have an influence on each world. Agent Morse of the EuraUnion Security Service believes that Compton is a suspect in the murder of the multibillionaire. What Compton doesn't understand is why Morse dislikes him personally. He also has to solve the question of why the Modhri is willing to go to any lengths to collect the lynx statues as well as their companion sculptures, the hawk and the viper. Compton and Batya and their unknowing allies are chased half way around the galaxy trying to elude the Modhri while trying to figure out what will happen when the parts of the statues are combined and why the enemy is so interested in them.

Think of the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and place that inside a space opera similar to Star Wars and readers will have some idea what The Third Lynx is all about. Instead of space battles, there are battles in a transportation system run by the mysterious Spiders and the Chahwyn. They play a pivotal but small role in the story yet the audience will be fascinated by them because they are at this point content to work behind the scenes leaving the audience to guess what they are really like and what is their true motive (at least to this cynical reviewer).

Reading about the various alien races inhabited on their worlds is fascinating but the real drama lies with the Modhri, a single mind constantly learning through its various arms made up of walkers. The author keeps the reader guessing who is controlled by the Modhri and who is willing to fight against them. Compton is a Han Solo type hero, working on the fly and normally coming out triumphant because he never reveals his whole plan to everyone so nobody can really even betray him. Compton has a good sense of humor as he bargains with the Chahwyn to be rehired after he was fired because he became too visible in the invisible war; but he is the only human the Modhri fear.

This is as much as mystery as it is a science fiction thriller. Even when the answers are realized nobody feels as if they get the whole picture because there are new questions that are raised and hopefully will be answered in future novels. Although this novel is of the adult audience, teens who have a scientific bent will find The Third Lynx electrifying and enthralling.

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