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Tuesday 26 November 2013

'Panthera: Death Spiral' by J. W. Metcalfe

Published by Pentangle Press
ISBN 978-1491068199

The initial crime concerns the unexpected and inexplicable deaths of kingcat cubs and wildlife conservationist Ren Hunter's efforts to discover the cause of the deaths while protecting a pair of healthy cubs from the same fate. The story is set in a distant future universe where space travel has become commonplace and many exotic worlds have been found and settled. The kingcats are a rare species in this universe so Ren is passionately determined to save them. She is forced into a sort of space odyssey as she fends off attacks on the cubs and searches for a safe reserve on which she can release them.

A second strand of the story concerns the Artificial Intelligence EnviroScout, Panthera body form, developed by Ren's brother, Bryn which has become sentient. Bryn has hidden the sentience of the A1 from his Company fearing that the A1 could be misused by some - particularly by the military - and when he finds that his fears are justified he steals Panthera and asks Ren to take him with her.

With the aid of a third sibling, Nic, Ren travels to various places protecting the two cubs. Meanwhile Bryn must also leave Earth in disguise after his theft. The story moves rapidly as they all journey through space and all attempt to explain the mysterious kingcub deaths and other peculiarities of
military behaviour. The A1 has amazing skills in computer investigating while the three humans combine different areas of knowledge. Eventually the information extrapolated from their discoveries can be combined into a logical picture and a conclusion can be reached. I enjoyed the creativity of this book with its new worlds and fantastic advances in science; I also enjoyed the human interaction and the growth of the A1's sentience. The science fantasy of writers like Anne McCaffery has always combined creatures and science as here; we also have a series of mysteries to be solved. J. W. Metcalfe shows great skill in manipulating her material about hard science, and animal conservation, while imagining a new worlds and characterising her prot
Reviewer: Jennifer Palmer
A second book in a series of adventures for this group is previewed at the end of this book - it is entitled Panthera: Death Song.

J. W. Metcalfe (Wendy Metcalfe) trained as an English Solicitor (Attorney), and practised in the profession for a dozen years. After working as a manager in personnel and training roles, she walked out of her last 'day job' a few years ago. She has taught creative writing for many years and is now a full time writer. Wendy has a magpie mind, and like the acquisitive birds she collects knowledge on a wide range of topics. Her interests range from DNA and epigenetics to cosmology, ecology, artificial intelligence, wildlife conservation, and art. She is passionate about big cats, especially cheetahs and lions. This smorgasbord of interests finds its way into her writing. She likes to explore the big picture, and her books examine human use and misuse of technology and the natural world. Wendy likes to write the first drafts of her books in her favourite café, with a cappuccino close to hand.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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