The Ghost Line by Andrew Neil Gray and J. S. Herbison came to my attention a while back when the cover popped up on one of the genre sites I visit, though my memory fails as to which one. Given the spectacular John Harris cover art I was instantly interested, though it has taken me longer than planned to get to this SF salvage story with a hint of horror. And it is just what you’d expect from a story with this title and cover!
The luxury cruise ship the Martian Queen was decommissioned years ago, set to drift back and forth between Earth and Mars on the off-chance that reclaiming it ever became profitable for the owners. For Saga and her husband Michel the cruise ship represents a massive payday. Hacking and stealing the ship could earn them enough to settle down, have children, and pay for the treatments to save Saga’s mother’s life.
But the Martian Queen is much more than their employer has told them. In the twenty years since it was abandoned, something strange and dangerous has come to reside in the decadent vessel. Saga feels herself being drawn into a spider’s web, and must navigate the traps and lures of an awakening intelligence if she wants to go home again.
With husband and wife team of Michel and Saga hired to help salvage old luxury cruise liner The Martian Queen on the Earth-Mars route nothing could appear simpler, that is until they arrive and their employer, Wei, starts acting even more strangely than she has so far. With strict instructions not to take off their suits, Saga and Michel, along with the pilot Gregor, start to explore the ship while the hacking of its A.I. takes place. As Saga notices some strange things on board, there is clearly more to The Martian Queen than Wei has told them. And that’s just the beginning…
Gray and Herbison deliver a good little story in The Ghost Line – it’s long enough to explore the premise, yet short enough to devour in one sitting. With no messing around we get straight to the story at hand, though some small bits of history are dropped throughout the narrative here and there, adding a bit more depth to the characters and setting. The pacing is good and the mystery revealed a little at a time before it all clicks into place.
Speaking of the mystery at hand, it’s one of those things that needs no real explanation for the most part as it simply adds that chill factor to the story, yet by the end I can’t decide if it’s satisfying or not. But regardless of that, it ends well enough, though there is definitely a possibility of a sequel that could expand on what’s given here.
Overall quick, entertaining, and it kept me hooked until the end. Worth a read.