If Neal Stephenson decided to write a book in the vein of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, the result may have been something like TREASURE OF THE HOLY QUINCUNX. In the first book in a new series, author ET Ellison delivers a noir-ish heist caper with a breakneck pace, a healthy sense of humor, oodles of cool sci-fi tech, and just a dash of social and political commentary. The protagonist is a chronically paranoid loner, Travis One-Shoe, who gets pulled into a heist scheme with more dangerous players than he bargained for. In true noir style, poor One-Shoe regularly gets the snot kicked out of him–but fear not, he always has a trick up his sleeve or a neurotoxin tipped missile in his cybernetic leg.
Tech heavy science fiction lovers will rejoice as the story is bursting with cool gadgets and quirky AIs. Between the “did that computer just blush?” moments and the exceptionally badass weaponry, there’s a lot to love in this book. The speed and off-the-cuff manner with which Ellison introduces all these new technologies lends a certain realism to the world without overwhelming the reader. Perhaps the most fun element of the whole story is the commitment to character voice and genre lingo. Everything is narrated by One-Shoe’s pithy, sardonic voice, which does an excellent job of creating and maintaining a robust atmosphere for readers to sink into. Bogart fans will take special delight in the hero’s colorful vocabulary – scuttlebutt, tails, shadows, and cajones abound!
Strong female characters make many appearances and are some of the most likable characters as well. One-Shoe may be the protagonist, but the fierce, conniving, unpredictable women drive plenty of the action and even steal the spotlight a few times. The enjoyment of these diverse, butt-kicking ladies is somewhat dimmed by frequent comparisons of their skin color to food. However, the greater context makes it feel like those instances can mainly be chalked up to unfortunate word choices.
TREASURE OF THE HOLY QUINCUNX is a highly entertaining sci-fi thriller. The tempo of the story does not lend itself to overthinking or glossary checking. With this fast, fun romp, Ellison offers readers a helping hand into a shopping cart, pushes it down the biggest hill in the neighborhood and jumps on the back to whoop and holler together all the way down.
ET Ellison takes readers on a wild ride in TREASURE OF THE HOLY QUINCUNX, a roller coaster of noir-ish intrigue paired with a science fiction heist and high tech action.
~Lauren Napoli for Indie Reader