Reviewed by Jenny Mounfield
Mole Hunt—The Maximus Black Files: book 1 by Paul Collins
Ford St Publishing
PB RRP: $19.95 Ages: 12+, ISBN: 9-781-921-665-2-64
In a future far away—really, really far—the galaxy is a vastly different place where cities float, bodies are regenerated at will and human-kind has invented even more ways to torture and kill itself.
Eighteen year-old Maximus Black works for galactic law enforcement agency, RIM. In short, he’s a highly-trained killing machine who makes Hannibal Lector look like Goldilocks. And like Lector, he’s a sociopathic psychopath. He is also a mole with his own agenda. At age six, Black witnessed the murder of his parents by slavers and has made it his life’s goal to exact revenge on the galaxy for the wrongs done to him. The plan: to get his hands on a massive cache of Old Empire weapons. Whoever has possession of these weapons controls the galaxy.
Like Black. Anneke Longshadow is also an orphaned rimmer (RIM agent). Unlike Black, she has a conscience. When she learns a mole has infiltrated RIM she makes it her business to unearth him. When the mole kills her uncle, it becomes personal. What ensues is a cat and mouse chase where Black and Longshadow pit wits and muscle against each other in their quest for dominance.
In the first book of The Maximus Black Files trilogy the first of a three-part code that will lead to the fabled Old Empire weapons is retrieved. Readers are treated to a viewpoint that alternates between Black and Longshadow and are expertly drawn into a plot that’s tighter than the traps these two characters set for each other. The pace would give Matthew Reilly a nose bleed, and the attention to technological detail is impressive to say the least: I don’t know how much fact is woven throughout the narrative, but it all has a ring of truth and that’s what counts.
Without a doubt, Collins is a master of the SF genre. But unlike some SF authors his complex world-building hasn’t been at the expense of his characters. Though most are thoroughly loathsome, particularly Black, they are all multi-layered and compelling. My head spins at the scope of this book, which at its core is about loss and fear, good and evil—and all that falls in between. Highly recommended not just for kids 12+, but for adult readers as well.
About the reviewer: Jenny Mounfield is the author of three novels for children and YAs In addition, several of her short stories and articles have appeared both in print and online. She has regularly reviewed children’s books for e-zine Buzz Words since 2006 and is currently working on her first adult novel.