“Loderunner” – A Spotlight

Loderunner” is the fourth book in the the Quantum Series by Christina Engela.

Set after the third book (‘Dead Man’s Hammer’) ‘Loderunner’ introduces new characters and a whole new adventure starting on the by now familiar Terran colony world of Deanna. Leading characters the reader may be familiar with from previous titles, such as Gary Beck, play cameo and supporting roles in ‘Loderunner’. The lead in this story is a struggling private investigator by the name of Timaset Skooch, who at the start of the story wins a small pile of loot …in a game of Uno. Part of the pot turns out to be a decrepit old cargo space ship called the Celeste (any alarms going off yet?) which Skooch decides to take out on a voyage with its eccentric and dysfunctional crew across the remotest reaches of Terran space to seek their fortune in the ultimate get-rich-quick scheme.

One of the spanners thrown into the spokes of the wheels of this plan is Skooch’s other half – Dory, who is a complex character in her own right. Dory is transgender, in the early stages of transitioning between male and female, and Timaset Skooch (who had never thought he may not have been entirely heterosexual before meeting Dory in drag on a bender one heavy night at a local night club called ‘the Slipped Disk‘) is understandably confused. The realization that Dory is transgender and that this would mean realigning himself yet again, seems a rather daunting prospect, especially with the headache he still had from getting mugged. Meanwhile, his other half – while supportive and dedicated to their continued partnership – is quite resolute about transitioning. It is on this note that Skooch and the odd-ball crew of the Celeste set off on their – er, oddysey.

On a convoluted journey between systems, stars and planets, Timaset Skooch meets a variety of strange people, starting with Giggling Harry – a local entrepreneur who introduces him to a couple of guys with no necks, who in turn arrange a fare for him – a couple of passengers traveling from Deanna to a ‘roid in the rings of – er, Jupiter. The passengers cause a bit of upset for the crew – but not because one turns out to be a victim of a kidnapping and also by sheer coincidence, transgender as well! Groaning inwardly at this incredible coincidence, Timaset is forced to confront the fact that he may be losing Dory – as well as facing his own insecurities about gender and sexuality – and the ingrained and entrenched prejudices of some of his crew – while dodging the relentless agents of a dangerous and shadowy organization calling itself ‘the Olduvai Trust’.

Far from being simply a tale of incidental adventure and comedy used as a front for activism into which Engela injects a narrative about transgender issues, ‘Loderunner’ is very entertaining, complex and funny.

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