There’s something funny going on under the big dome on the planet Reevis. There’s rampant suspicion of Off-Worlders, an ex-con journalist and, oh, yes, that dead body shoved inside the bathroom of a cheap hotel.
This fast-paced book has all the necessary ingredients for a first-rate whodunit — with the added element of being set on a lonely, isolated planet where a local saying sums up the world’s inhospitable nature: “You may use it, or live on it, and even make money from it, but never forget it can snuff you out without a second thought, or even be aware of your passing.”
Miles Gorham originally came to Reevis — also known as a “ribbonworld,” due to an odd swath of barely habitable land that rings the planet — to do a travel piece on a luxury hotel. But his focus quickly shifts to survival as mysterious forces move into play against him.
Who murdered Nic Stavriedies, the local developer who built the hotel Miles has come to review? Who kidnapped Balcom Industries heiress Layla Balcom? And why are the mayor of Reevis City and the earliest planet pioneer so eager to see Miles on the next transport off the strange new world?
The author shows a fine, practiced hand at describing the stark surroundings and the extensive efforts that have been undertaken to make the overall living conditions as close to Terran as possible — right down to the waving fields of wheat growing under the adjoining farm dome.
Miles falls under direct attack while visiting the farm. He and the farm overseer are literally run off the road and are rescued by a passing prospector, a feisty, independent lady who warms up to Miles back at the hotel a bit later in a romantic side plot.
Meanwhile, the nefarious Balcom people, who control everything and just about everybody on the barren world, are busily scheming to take full command, bribing government officials and falsifying documents in partnership with an organized crime syndicate.
Miles is smuggling secret data that will nail the bad guys, but can he get off the planet without getting killed?
This sci-fi story moves quickly, and the technology that supports the domes, and the desolate yet beautiful environment, play major roles during the non-stop action. The writer is almost cinematic, describing the intricacies that keep the residents of the artificial environments alive and productive, providing even rain and gentle breezes.
In the end, justice is served, but not in a way you’ll expect. The author’s talent for storytelling ties up all the loose ends, and mystery and conspiracy buffs will be well-satisfied.
Five stars to Ribbonworld, an ambitious glimpse into a place our great-great-great grandchildren might very well see.