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Lost Voices 5: The Taking of Satcon Station by Barney Cohen and Jim Baen

The Taking of Satcon Station

By Barney Cohen & Jim Baen 

24 Apr, 2000

Lost Voices


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The Taking of Satcon Station

Barney Cohen and Jim Baen

Tor Books [1982]

287 pages

Synopsis: Bockhorn is a field agent for MA&P, one of the big space carriers. Part of his job is hunting down contract runaways and as the book opens, he is called to Satcon Station to look for Lauren Potter whose boss, T.J. Janes, claims may have run off. Investigation shows that Potter is in another station with a hard man named Cobb. Bockhorn catches up with them and decides that All Is Not As It Seems. More investigations lead him to discover that T.J and Potter were lesbian lovers, that big money is involved somehow, that someone else is tracking Cobb and Potter and eventually that someone has shot off Cobb's face. Hijinks ensue.

Eventually, Bockhorn tracks the threads back to Satcon Station, where he discovers a plot between the mob and the big carriers to evade the red tape strangling space trade and to keep Satcon station safe from competitive use by smaller carriers. Bockhorn is not especially bright but eventually figures out what is going on in time to cause a resolution to the series of killings. Lauren Potter, who at one point becomes his lover [She sleeps with almost everyone in the book at some point or another, sex being one of her major tools for manipulating the people around her] turns out to be the killer of Cobb. She is handed over to the cops, and later dies as a result of a fall in custody. Bockhorn is disgusted at the corruption he has found but eventually goes back to work for MA&P.

This is one of those books where my memory of it was better than the reread. Cohen and Baen make their influences plain: Bockhorn reads Christie and Hammett and the plot of tToSS has enough similarity to The Maltese Falcon to partially telegraph the ending1. The writing is competent, although I had more trouble following the plot than I remembered having almost twenty years ago [Although admittedly that was a lot of blows to the head ago] but no better than a lot of other novels. Some of the background seemed inconsistent: shipping people into space is terribly expensive but there are huge pleasure space stations serving tens of thousands of people.

Cohen is still writing, although apparently not SF anymore. He wrote a sequel to this book, Blood on the Moon . People who find Bockhorn's investigative skills lacking will be pleased to know that in the sequel he gets so distracted by a subplot that another policeman manages to solve the case and get sufficient evidence for an arrest while Bockhorn is diddling around.

This is Jim Baen's only credited novel, as far as I know. He of course is still in SF, running Baen books. People discovering or deciding that their strengths are in editing rather than writing are not at all unheard of in SF, the classic example being John W. Campbell. In this case, I agree with Baen: _The Taking of Satcon Station_ is at best mediocre while Baen's editing at Ace, Galaxy and Tor was very good and while what he is currently interested in publishing generally is not to my taste, the sum of the Baen authors whose work I do like is much greater than the work he might have produced on his own. One imagines that his deciding to focus on editing was an even better decision from the POV of his company's core market.

Next: The Wanting of Levine , Michael Halberstam

1: I wonder why it is in books like this the protagonist, who in this case does read the books being referred to, doesn't realise they are stuck in a homage.