Pros: Fascinating, lyrical tale
Rating: 5 out of 5
Mike Resnick’s The Soul Eater is elegantly over-the-top in its depiction of future society, both the grimy, gritty outer worlds and the high-styling inner worlds. Nicobar Lane is a killer–of animals, that is. When people want stuffed-and-mounted exotic beasts from far-flung planets for their museums, they come to him. He’ll take any commission save one: he won’t go after the Dreamwish Beast. After all, it isn’t real! It’s a myth, a creature made of energy that lives in the vastness of space and subsists on dust clouds. Then he runs into something inexplicable while on a hunt, and he starts to ask questions about the beast. He finds someone who claims to have seen it, and before long he’s off searching for the beast. Something about it shocks him to the very core, and he becomes determined to destroy it, going so far as to hunt down a member of a dying alien race that knows how to kill it. But killing a telepathic beast who can make him feel its fear and pain isn’t going to be easy.
There are definite shades of Captain Ahab in Nicobar Lane. He becomes obsessed, a mere shell of himself, liquidating all of his resources and then stealing more in order to pay for his food, water, and fuel. All he can think about is destroying this unusual beast, even though he doesn’t understand it at all. Is it a monster? Is it searching him out because it wants something from him? The relationship between these two is fascinating, and well worth exploring.
There are few characters in this story, but the ones there are have been well-drawn. My favorite is a colleague of Lane’s who runs a bar, brothel, and other dubious emporiums.
There isn’t much more I can say without spoiling the story. It’s one of those tales that’s less about the events and more about the character’s inner journey. It isn’t an action-fest. I really enjoyed it, and I’m happy with where it went.
Please note that there is a short story in this book AFTER the “Author’s Note” at the end. Be sure to catch it–it’s easy to miss!