Rating: 4 stars
I’ve made a return to the Winterhill series. I picked up the first volume on a whim and enjoyed it. I decided I was going to whittle down my TBR before I invested in any more in the series, though, but then last month the author announced that any profits on sales of the book would be donated to the charity Hope for Hypothalamic Hamartomas. So I bought the next three.
Ghost Requiem is the second book in this pop culture sci-fi series about amnesiac archaeologist Professor Rebecca Winterhill. It opens with Winterhill and her travel mates Madagascar Talifero and Tareku Wamae resting up on a mini cruise on the planet Kalumpah.
After a quick recap of the action from book one, we’re plunged straight back in to the messy, fugitive existence of the trio. Author Iain Martin begins to hint that something strange might be going on with Tareku. Winterhill starts to wonder about why he’s so implausibly perfect. Something doesn’t quite sit right about his recent life choices. His apparent immunity to mind altering activity is also a bit suspect.
Maddy is also unhappy about Tareku, but for completely different reasons.
As with The Wreath of Dreams, there’s plenty of imaginative other world stuff going on. Martin occasionally pulls his characters up on thinking too much like Earthlings. A sentient force native to Kalumpah, that Maddy disturbs in her selfish desire to get Winterhill to stop moaning about the plaster cast on her arm, describes them as landkind, which is a better description. Maddy’s unthinking action almost costs them their lives, but the jeopardy they’re placed in at the will of the sentience is happily resolved. When threatened by an alien life form, it’s usually worth talking to them, because it’s probably all just a daft misunderstanding.
Winterhill is still suffering from amnesia. Her guardian is still watching over her from afar. As is a more malevolent figure who wants to silence the only witness to its past misdemeanours. As well as the sentience they encounter in episode one, there are five more adventures that try to trip them up. In an Earth embassy run by a pair of predatory old men who take a shine to Tareku, they encounter some putrescent zombie-like creatures and Winterhill takes a ride in a teleporter without knowing where her reassembled molecules will pitch up. Back in the space craft they stole at the end of the first book, Maddy decides the time is right to test out its time travelling capabilities. This is the start of my favourite episode in the book, First Contact. More about Maddy’s childhood is revealed and Winterhill gets to do stuff on her own. I enjoyed the space between the characters and the slightly slower pace. Things get weirder from this point on, with Winterhill undergoing brain surgery in a facility that also likes to practice its own version of the Final Solution and an unexpected revelation about who exactly she might be. The book was published in 2014, before fake news became everyday, and with that in mind I found this new trajectory for the story interesting.
This was another pacy and entertaining read, and an ideal break from the heavier literature that appears on my reading list. Its episodic structure also made for perfect commuter reading. I’ll be carrying on with this series.