The Demon Trap is a short story featured in Gardner Dozois’ Galactic Empires anthology, a Science Fiction Book Club exclusive released only in the US – I was very glad (and lucky) to get my hands on a copy through eBay. Galactic Empires features six short stories by some of today’s best science fiction writers, and although I’ve still got the other five to read I wanted to post my thoughts on this one separately.
The Demon Trap is set in Peter’s Commonwealth Universe, the home to four novels to date with another two on the horizon, these being Misspent Youth, Pandora’s Star, Judas Unchained and The Dreaming Void (the two remaining volumes of the Void trilogy due to be released over the next few years).
The Demon Trap sits nicely between Misspent Youth and Pandora’s Star and features Paula Myo, the genetically engineered detective we’ve all come to know from her appearances in Pandora’s Star, Judas Unchained and The Dreaming Void. With her birth planet the much-hated Huxley’s Haven, a planet in the Commonwealth where each person is genetically designed prior to birth to do the job they are allocated, she is an investigator that cannot leave a case until it has finally been solved and justice delivered.
The story itself follows the events of one of the Commonwealth planets, Merioneth, wanting independence and all connections to the Commonwealth closed. This starts off with a terrorist group targeting and killing young dynasty family members in order to pressure CST into closing the wormhole connection. Suffice to say, they are successful in getting the Commonwealth to agree a date that does exactly this. The story goes from there, Paula determined to unravel the mystery behind the attacker and terrorist group.
What I liked about this story was its scope – a story that runs to around 75 pages but covers over two years. The feeling is always there behind the words that this isn’t a two dimensional world, but one with plenty of history and the events within have an effect on all. Paula just adds another layer again to the story, she brings a unique viewpoint that is unapologetic to the reader. I found her to be a great character to read, more so here than in her previous appearances. To be honest, there is actually next to nothing about this story that I didn’t like, the setting, characters and story were exactly what I was hoping for – there is even some nice little touches in there for long time fans of Peter’s work.
There was only one section while reading this that I found out of place and stretching believability a little. It’s during a nightclub scene where Paula and her newly promoted colleague talk about the case and Paula goes into all this detail about her suspicions and thoughts, something that I just found odd. If the location was different it wouldn’t have bothered me, but I had to do a double take to make sure I wasn’t imagining two pages of in depth discussion in a busy nightclub.
All in all this is Peter’s best short offering since The Suspect Genome, it’s only a damned shame that it’s available to so few. A later reprint in a UK magazine or anthology would allow a big enough audience to fully appreciate it.