Star Hunter sis the fifth book in Jo Clayton’s Diadem series.
Half-Vrya Aleytys has reluctantly given up her child. Her life as an agent for Hunters, Inc. is too tumultuous; anyone close to her is in danger. She has broken with her long-term lover Grey and been abandoned by the psionics ghosts living within the Diadem.
(The Diadem is a powerful magical artifact that she donned at the start of the series, an artifact that she found she cannot remove. For more backstory, check out this earlier JDN review.)
She’s temporarily at a loss. A mission is a welcome distraction.
She is summoned to meet Head, chief officer of Hunters, Inc. She learns that she is to be dispatched to the troubled world Sunguralingu at the request of the Chwereva Company. Aleytys senses a trap. Head would normally have refused to send her on such an assignment (she has a bad habit of siding with natives rather than interstellar corporations) but he has agreed … which suggests that something has tampered with his mind.
However, forewarned is forearmed. She now has a good chance of foiling the trap and finding out who set it. Furthermore, another Hunter agent, an experienced and capable agent, has been assigned to protect her. This would be wonderful … if the agent weren’t Grey, the lover with whom she has recently broken up. How awkward.
Sunguralingu is a metal-poor world settled by human anti-technology religious extremists. The Fa-men are patriarchal, paranoid, and murderous. That’s just one danger. Also, many of the planet’s indigenous plants and animals are psionic and can, if provoked, destroy human minds. Artificial psi-shields could protect human settlements, but the Fa-men would rather die than resort to advanced technology.
It turns out that someone has enticed Aleytys to Sunguralingu so that they can capture her. The unknown enemy is powerful and Aleytys is soon captured. Escape seems quite unlikely.
In the previous synopsis I neglected to mention a rambling subplot re an unhappy marriage between Manoreh and Kitosime, Sunguralingu residents who are descendants of humans who settled there long ago. I found this plot more interesting than “oh dear, Aleytys is captured again.” I would have liked the book better if it had been focused on Manoreh and Kitosime. Indeed, the book might have worked better if Aleytys and her problems had been left out entirely.
As you might have guessed by now, I didn’t particularly enjoy this book.
It’s ableist. The big bad has an unfortunate medical condition and their attempts to deal with it drive the plot. It’s eugenicist. Aleytys is who she is because her mother was a quasi-superhuman Vrya . There are the white hats, who are superior, and black hats who are broken in some way. They cannot be cured; they can only be eliminated.
Not a great entry in the Diadem series. Star Hunters begins by stripping Aleytys of baby, lover, and ghosts — only for the author to decide that these elements were core to the series and reverse every loss. (Well, except for the baby, who will no doubt feature prominently in future volumes for reasons that are massive spoilers, but who does not appear in person in this volume.) This book seems to exist only to set up later volumes. Oh, well. Perhaps later volumes will be better than this one.
1: Old books might call them “natives.” They’ve been on the planet long enough that “settler” will give the wrong impression but they’re no more native to Sunguralingu than sweet potatoes are to Asia.
2: Aleytys is the sort of superhuman who will plunk a magic hat onto her head without any concern for possible consequences. This suggests that superhumans aren’t necessarily endowed with superhuman common sense.