Paul Collins is a prominent figure in the Australian speculative fiction community. Co-editor of the highly successful Quentaris Chronicles, Collins is also a multi-award winning author and publisher. Mole Hunt is his latest book, the first of a trilogy centring on compelling anti-hero, Maximus Black. Eighteen-year-old Maximus is a star cadet with RIM (Regis Imperium Mentatis)—a galactic law agency. Ruthless, manipulative, and conniving, he is the ‘perfect psychopath’, slipping undetected through the treacherous streets and alleyways of Zetalon 6, hell-bent on revenge and galactic control.
The dystopian universe that Maximus inhabits is totally convincing and so deftly constructed by Collins that the reader might feel that it’s somewhere they’ve actually been—albeit an often unsavoury somewhere. Zetalon 6 has ‘four seasons: murky and clearing, twice a year’. Opportunists trade information, vicious mercenaries lurk in dingy bars, alleyways are infested with shady figures, and high-tech law enforcement procedures are implemented in a sometimes futile attempt to maintain law and order.
Just when you think things can’t become any more complicated, enter Anneke Longshadow: a real match for Collins’s anti-hero. Fiercely intelligent; physically powerful; damaged, but morally upright, Anneke acts as Maximus’s binary opposite. How refreshing to encounter a central female character who’s every bit as complex and resourceful as her male counterpart. Word has spread among RIM operatives that a mole has infiltrated the agency and Anneke is determined to root out the traitor. Max, filled with secrets and motivations of his own, finds himself inextricably connected to Anneke in a page-turning, pulse-quickening battle of wits, physical dominance, and exhilarating daring.
I just love spending time with these characters—it’s a rush to be caught on the precipice of their perilous situations, only to be rescued at the last minute by their ingenuity and lightning-fast reflexes. Thrilling plot aside, what I love most about Mole Hunt is the sheer joy of Collins’s inventiveness; the imaginary technology is amazing. And not all authors can pull this off. I’ve read many a book that overdoes this sort of thing until it becomes a distraction. Some sci-fi writers sacrifice characterisation in favour of technology; it’s to Collins’s credit that Mole Hunt has both. In spades! Directional locator bands, attractor field generators, anti-static suits, astrogation charts, hover cars, e-paper—I couldn’t get enough of it.
It’s so much fun watching the tale unfold from the perspectives of these charismatic characters as they use every reserve of cunning and practicality to outmanoeuvre one another. Traps are set, tracks are traced, wits are sharpened, and bodies are pushed to the limit. And in this epic struggle, Collins asks us to consider questions of loyalty, morality, identity, and life choices.
There’s plenty to recommend about Mole Hunt. The trilogy is being pitched at a 12+ male audience, though I think its actual readership is far wider. Anyone who enjoys an action-packed sci-fi, with imaginative environments and gadgetry, an absorbing plot, and memorable characters will love this. Simply put, it’s enormously entertaining. Put Mole Hunt at the top of your reading list and be on the look out for book 2: Dyson’s Drop. I sure will be.
Mole Hunt trailer: httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3S-eKDYqpEs
Mole Hunt – Paul Collins
Published, June 2011, by Ford Street Publishing
Paperback, 347 pages