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Necropath by Eric Brown

Necropath (2008)

by Eric Brown

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1771898,804 (3.06)12



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Necropath was, while simplistic and unchallenging, a fun little detective thriller set in a believably grim, dystopian future. If you were a fan of [b:Babylon-5] and its cynically world-weary security chief Garibaldi, you'd feel right at home digging for clues among the back-alleys and criminal lowlife of Bengal Station's impoverished lower decks.

As much of the novel occurs in brothels and bars, with addicts and alcoholics mutually exploiting defenseless refugees in a Dickensian cycle of debt-slavery, I found myself cringing in anticipation of a remorselessly dismal read. Instead, I was surprised and impressed at the nuanced balance the author struck while describing the unapologetically awful conditions in which his characters lived, never allowing the darkness to completely eclipse hope and succor. Without entirely painting over the many evils man will persist in inflicting upon man, he nonetheless created a palpable and true reminder that flowers may bloom from the unlikeliest of muck.

Sadly, the book's two sequels did not build on this success, instead (in my opinion) first subverting, then systematically betraying every good point from the first book. If Necropath would have made a potentially excellent 3-episode arc in B5, [b:Xenopath|6415567|Xenopath (Bengal Station)|Eric Brown|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1278721504s/6415567.jpg|6604621] could have been compressed into a single (and weak) episode of Doctor Who or Star Trek -- in fact, the same trite plot concoction has been used, repeatedly, on every sci-fi series ever filmed, and is generally understood to represent a point where the writers are running out of fresh ideas. This nonetheless excels [b:Cosmopath|6948521|Cosmopath (Bengal Station Trilogy)|Eric Brown|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51n4FprWCIL._SL75_.jpg|7182753], whose clumsy script would hopefully have been left on the cutting-room floor.

In conclusion, Necropath is passable train-fare if you like your sci-fi with a dash of curry; but get off before the tale twists downhill and completely derails. ( )
  mzieg | Apr 1, 2013 |
I suppose that if you aren't irritated by the main character, the book could qualify as mediocre, but personally, it was a total waste of time. The premise had potential, but the pacing dragged, the setting is vague through most of the book, and the main character is not only kind of a jerk, he is utterly boring. The narrative is strongly focused on Jeff Vaughan, and every time he was on screen, my eyes glazed over. It was like the interminable camping sequence in Harry Potter 7. There were brief flickers of interest when other things happened, but they were promptly drowned out when the narrative returned to dwelling on Vaughan's manpain. Also, the entire subplot with Osborne and Sukara seemed clumsily tacked on. ( )
  esther_a | Mar 3, 2012 |
Jeff Vaughan is a telepath working on Bengal Station, a structure containing a bustling city and busy spaceport rising out of the Bay of Bengal. Vaughan’s special talent is as a necropath, a telepath who can access the thoughts of the very recently dead before they fade too far. He is sickened by the revelations his talent in general has given him about the nature of humanity and wishes for respite from it.

As the book starts he feels his boss - who wears a shield against telepathy as part of his job - is up to no good and the story seems set for the usual sort of trajectory, but his boss commits suicide (so does his wife after she kills their child) as soon as Vaughan’s police contact, Chandra, hauls him in on a small charge.

Thereafter, as part of his investigation, Vaughan finds himself drawn into the orbit of a new religious cult, the Church of the Adoration of the Chosen One, centred round a young girl from Verkerk’s World, where the cult originated; a child who closely resembles Holly, a dead girl from Vaughan’s past. There is a whiff of overkill here as there seem to be a few such resonances. Before she died of a drug overdose, Vaughan was friendly with a girl nicknamed Tiger who in pureness of mind also reminded him of Holly. There are echoes in this of Brown’s earlier New York trilogy where the protagonist also had a paternal relationship with a teenage girl.

Vaughan and Chandra take a voidship to Verkerk’s World. One of the sections set here is narrated from Chandra’s point of view - perhaps since Vaughan’s telepathic ability would mean the interrogation which takes place would otherwise have been over much too quickly. The pair eventually find the source of the religious cult is an alien species called the Vaith who are using their devotees religious impulses for their own ends. This aspect of the plot came close to being in the nature of pulp SF (see here) part 3, and does not quite suspend disbelief.

Another narrative strand involves Suraka, a prostitute in Thailand who, too, has a pure mind. Again, the sections dealing with Suraka’s relations with aliens fail to ring quite true.

While never being less than readable, throughout Necropath too much plot and sub-plot are being shoe-horned into the narrative, which in turn makes the characterisation seem rushed. Brown also withholds information about the dead girl Holly until too near the end.

Bengal Station itself is an interesting scenario, however, but Brown does not exploit it as much as he might. There are two more in the trilogy to come though. ( )
  jackdeighton | Jul 31, 2011 |
Ever since I discovered Eric Brown's short stories in "The Fall of Tartarus", I've had a soft spot for his characters, so I'm usually prepared to cut him a lot of slack (even after the disaster that was "Kethani"). Necropath is no exception. Jeff Vaughn is a tormented professional telepath who hates people, all the more so since he has to listen to people's thoughts for a living.
The setting, Bengal Station, is a gigantic spaceport in the bay of Bengal, teeming with cultists, Buddhist monks and Hindu temples. My God, what Alestair Reynolds could have done with that! Instead of a sprawling epic to match his spectacular setting, Brown delivers a story that is a bit of a carbon copy of his earlier "New York Dreams" novel, with adjustments here and there. Your basic Noir "The Maltese Falcon" scenario.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the characters, cared what happened to them, and will probably read the rest of the trilogy... but I'm not expecting to find anything in them that I haven't read already. It's almost like reading a Harlequin romance, if you liked what you got before, then you won't mind getting more of the same.

Too bad...the setting of Bengal Station itself has infinite possibilities. Much more than Brown seems able to deliver. ( )
  Diosibundo | Mar 3, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
If the trilogy works well as a whole, I suspect I'll look at the whole as 4 stars. For a more in depth review:
http://mentatjack.com/2009/08/11/review-necropath-by-eric-brown/ ( )
  mentatjack | Aug 11, 2009 |
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to Finn and Freya
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Vaughan was in scan-mode when the kid found him.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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*'Necropath' a rewritten and expanded version of his 2004 book 'Bengal Station'
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"Bengal Station: an exotic spaceport that dominates the ocean between India and Burma. Jaded telepath, Jeff Vaughan, is employed by the spaceport authorities to monitor incoming craft for refugees from other worlds. When he discovers a sinister cult that worships a mysterious alien god, he's drawn into a deadly investigation. Not only must he attempt to solve the murders, but he has to save himself from the psychopath out to kill him."--Cover.… (more)

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