Here we are again, examining a really nice body of work from one of my all-time favorite genre authors, one who repeatedly fails to disappoint me with his ability to spin splendid yarns that are interesting, entertaining and a pure joy to sit back and relax with.
The Telemass Quartet is a series four separately published novella length stories that are chronological and really need to be read as such:
1. Famadihana on Fomalhaut IV
2. Sacrifice on Spica III
3. Reunion on Alpha Reticuli II
4. Exalted on Bellatrix 1
You could possibly read numbers 1 through 3 in any order, but definitely number 4 should be read last as it is a finale and concludes the series nicely. I read them one after the other as a single work which worked very well, the overall storyline has good momentum which I enjoyed staying with.
Set in the same universe as Brown's Starship Seasons series of novellas in what we know as "the expansion”, the Telemass stories have a similar vibe and feel, being very character based with love, loss, pain and eventual joy the key elements. It's a flavour of story that Brown is very, very good at and it has become a real signature of his work. This bundle is a blast to read, and tells the story of tired ex-cop Matt Hendrick from Earth who wishes to get his daughter back from his ex-wife who has kidnapped her and is undertaking a quest across the galaxy in search of dramatic healing for her. Each installment has a race of strange and enigmatic aliens and some sort of cult or bizarre spiritual practice central to the story. These are tropes that Brown has used in previous books and are ones that always combine together to deliver an interesting story.
The first installment, Famadihana on Fomalhaut IV, introduces the main players and takes us on a journey to a remote jungle planet where a strange religious cult and race of aliens enact rituals in an attempt to bring the dead back to life. As you can expect, all is not as it seems. Next, in Sacrifice on Spica III, we go to a planet that is just about to begin a brutal five year winter, slowly closing down and its inhabitants retreating far underground to await the arrival of summer. Here we find another bizarre cult with death at its core. Then, in what I thought was the most interesting of the series, Reunion on Alpha Reticuli II takes place on a luxury tourist planet that is awaiting the arrival of a starship which has been travelling for centuries to reach the planet. The thing here is that after the starship left Earth, instantaneous Telemass travel was invented and rendered starship travel obsolete and others from Earth beat them there by a few hundred years. The crew of the starship are unaware of this until they phase back into normal space. This part only forms part of the backstory to the main plot which is still Hendrick’s quest to reclaim his daughter. Reunion really sets things up for the finale by introducing a key character who plays a pivotal role in the end. Speaking of which, Exalted on Bellatrix 1 is the final installment and brings about a fitting finish to the tale. Again, there is a strange alien species and a group of humans who have an unusual relationship with them. It is these aliens and their abilities who are able to effect a fine end to the overall Telemass storyline.
Each novella follows the same general theme and they flow together very well. If the whole lot were bundled together end to end, it would make up a nice novel, and that is effectively how I read it. This has happened with some Eric Brown’s previous work and has turned out very well - Brown’s own Kethani being a good example of individual short works combining to become a great novel.
Overall, this series comes together very well and is an enjoyable read. I spent much of my time reading this with either a cup of coffee or glass of cider next to me, depending on the time of day. Perfect. It doesn’t break any new ground but fans of Eric Brown will find comfort in his trademark style and character development. For anyone who is new to Brown’s work, this series would be a fine introduction, in my opinion. I suspect we may see this released as a single volume in the near future, as well as seeing more stories based in this interesting Telemass universe. I love the sound of that.
4/5 for concept
5/5 for delivery
4/5 for entertainment