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New Treasures: Starship Alchemon by Christopher Hinz

Thursday, November 28th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Anachronisms Christopher Hinz-small Starship Alchemon-small

Covers: unknown (left) , and Francesca Corsini

Christopher Hinz’s 1987 SF classic Liege-Killer won the Compton Crook Award, and came in fourth for the Locus Award for Best First Novel. It’s part of the Paratwa Saga, which also includes Ash Ock (1989), The Paratwa (1991), and Binary Storm (2016). I picked up his latest novel Starship Alchemon on Saturday, only to discover it’s a rewrite of his second novel, Anachronisms, from 1988. Here’s an excerpt from the Strange Alliances review by Elaine Aldred, who is clearly better informed than I am.

The nine members of the crew of the Starship Alchemon are sent to investigate a mysterious anomaly on a distant planet. But the mission is far from straightforward and the crew are soon battling for their lives.

Starship Alchemon started life as Christopher Hinz’s 1980’s novel Anachronisms, but this version is not a simple rehash. It has an up-to-date feel and explores the characters in more depth, as well as tightening the whole worldbuilding experience. Each of the crew has their own particular skill set, with some possessing extraordinary abilities, like the character LeaMarsa de Host’s powerful psionic qualities. But there is careful attention paid to giving each of the characters a significant role in the story. The first half of the novel is slow, but the moment strange and ominous events begin to kick off, there is an Alien narrative in the sense of the crew just fighting to survive the escalating events.

Anachronisms could probably be thought of as being “of its time” however, put in the context of 1980’s science fiction, it still makes for an interesting read. Despite having been exposed to the novel in its first incarnation, I enjoyed this second outing, which can be thought of as having its own personality…

Despite being a rewrite of an older book, there’s a lot that appeals to me about Starship Alchemon — not the least of which is Aldred’s comparison to Alien. She’s not the only one to make that connection; keikii Eats Books on Reddit has the same idea.

Anachronisms Christopher Hinz-back-small  Starship Alchemon-back-small

Back cover for Anachronisms and Starship Alchemon

Here’s the relevant bit from keikii’s review.

Starship Alchemon was a ton of fun…. there is the lifeform that they retrieved from the planet. They don’t know what it is. They don’t know what it is doing. They don’t know how to stop it from doing what they know it is doing. They don’t know how the thing is doing it. And it is terrifying. It is messing with the ship, the thing they need to live. They can’t fight back. It seems to have a goal, and even a personality, but they cannot communicate. There is no outside help. Everyone seems to be affected by it. Everything about this mysterious lifeform is terrifying. There is just this sense of crushing doom that works very well.

This is a book where things go from bad to worse…. The whole book reminded me of one of my favourite Doctor Who episodes, which I never, ever thought to see in a book.

Starship Alchemon was published by Angry Robot on November 12, 2019. It is 350 pages, priced at $14.99 in paperback and $9.99 for the digital version. The cover was designed by Francesca Corsini. Read the first three chapters at Issuu.

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