Society and empathy have evolved for thousands of years. Could I have guessed that corruption would continue to evolve along side them?
Black Hull is a strange, meandering tale that at times reads like a lucid dream. It will have you questioning what you are reading and how you are approaching the book itself while the main character, Mick, is questioning his whole approach at life. The premise is simple enough. Mick was in prison for a crime of passion, but he agrees to do a deep space smuggling job in order to cut time off his thirty year prison sentence. The mission will take ten years, so he is trading ten years of his life for twenty years he can spend with his kids and the wife who cheated on him, leading to the crime of passion. That premise, however, is where the simplicity ends and the strange trip begins.
Something goes wrong with the mission and Mick finds himself on board an escape pod that is losing power. He resigns himself to death, and the next time he wakes up, he's no longer where or when he thought he was. His pod has full power, he is saved by a bot called XJ and learns that he has been cast into the future - a future in which Earth has been destroyed and his wife and children are long gone. Mick's new goal is to find a way back. Time travel technology exists, but it doesn't come cheap or easy. His ticket to the past becomes Sera, a hard-lined captain who has her own goals. She's trying to get to Utopia, and she is going to use Mick to get there.
The style of this book will leave some readers floundering and grasping at conceptual understanding, I'm sure. It isn't an easy style and the formatting on my Kindle made it even harder to read. It switched constantly from inline paragraphs to block paragraphs. Endless sequences of dialogue led into meandering internal prose as Mick tried to remember why he held onto his goal to get back to a wife who didn't want him and reconciling past with present with future. There are also several flashbacks stuck into random places without transition that caused my brain to stutter a bit as it switched gears.
Formatting and style aside - there is a good adventure / thriller aspect to this story and a unique science fiction flavor that you don't get very often. There is comedy mixed with profound questions, and characters that don't ask you to like them. No, Sera and Mick don't even try. You find yourself liking them, however, and you find yourself asking the same questions as Mick - stay or go. Past or present. What is that fine line between good and bad? How far would you go when life becomes a blurred concept of artificial existence? What would you do in a desperate search for a personal utopia?
I recommend this read simply because it is unique. It stands out in a sea of merely likable, retold stories. It stands on its own, and I look forward to more from this author.