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Hour of Judgment Mass Market Paperback – January, 1999
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About the Author
After earning an undergraduate degree in psychology, Susan R. Matthews was commisioned into the United States Army, where she was the operations and security officer for a combat support hospital specializing in nuclear, biological, and radiological warfare. Currently working as an auditor for an aerospace manufacturer, Susan lives with her partner in Seattle, Washington.
Top customer reviews
It was a good novel and a good read in any case and I had difficulty putting it down. I very much look forward to Ms. Matthew's next novel I the series and how it is out soon.
The character driven EXCHANGE, runner up for the 1997 Philip K. Dick Award, introduced the charismatic Andrej Kosciusko, a brilliant surgeon who discovers he has a penchant for torture, a skill highly prized by the Fleet, the dominating political/military force in a far future interstellar civilization. In EXCHANGE, Matthews created a strong cast of characters and established an intriguing sociopolitical context, all the while milking Kosciusko's fragile psyche to great dramatic effect. Unfortunately, subsequent novels in the series-1998's PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE and now HOUR OF JUDGMENT-have not lived up to the promise of their predecessor. Matthews has written two soap operas in a row, books that squander the excellent work she did in her first novel.
HOUR OF JUDGMENT is set some four years after the events of PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE. Nearing the end of his service aboard the Fleet ship Scylla, Ship's Surgeon/Inquisitor Kosciusko is desperate to return to civilian life. The Fleet, however, has other plans for its most proficient torturer, and is working behind the scenes to force him to reenlist. Asked to treat the wounds of a slave woman brutally raped by a ship's officer, Kosciusko once again finds himself acting in the antithetical role of Inquisitor when that officer is murdered in revenge. To complicate matters, Kosciusko has been marked for death by a powerful enemy--distracted by personal problems and his role in the murder investigation, he fails to sense the many dangers around him.
As in PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE, the formerly dynamic Kosciusko is more spectator than protagonist; his once towering presence, the force behind the success of AN EXCHANGE OF HOSTAGES, has been diminished. He seems to be a different character entirely, less intelligent, passively accepting what fate brings him, rather than mastering his destiny. Distracted or not, the Kosciusko of EXCHANGE would never miss the obvious clues thrust in his face at the murder scene.
In the end, the watered down version of Kosciusko detracts from Matthew's storytelling. Despite her considerable skills, the presence of her inexplicably bland lead proves fatal to the book, which sometimes reads more like an unemotional newspaper account than a story that personally engages its readers. If this series is to continue, Matthews needs to go back to basics, to the more intimate, impassioned storytelling style evident in her debut--only then will she fulfill the considerable promise demonstrated there.
The tantalising glimpses that Miss Matthews gives us of the Bench Federation of Worlds might be an excellent way of filling in these frustrating gaps. It would be fascinating to know how the bonds came to be bonds (were they Free Government? What exactly is the Free Government? &c). Miss Matthews - if you read your reviews, how about the story from Robert's point of view, or Joslire's (a wonderful but sadly wasted character)?
Having made the complaint about the series, I have to say that this is a great book, and Bruce Applebaum is gibbering! Andrej Kosciusko is simply the most extraordinary character in science fiction.