Xenopath is the second Bengal Station book by Eric Brown, focusing on a telepathic detective based in a huge spaceport off the coast of India. The first novel, Necropath, was a joy to read, and it certainly whetted my appetite for more stories focusing on Jeff Vaughan and his abilities. With Xenopath I was hoping that the general feeling would be carried through and that the characters would continue to be as enjoyable as they were in Necropath. I was pleasantly surprised in the direction it went and managed to blast through it with no problem at all.
Set two years after Necropath, Jeff Vaughan has now married Sakura and they are expecting their first child. After having his pin removed he now works outside of the investigative area and enjoys a quiet, although not wealthy, life. This was the first thing that struck me when reading Xenopath. Gone is the depressed and moody Jeff Vaughan and here we are with a happy and content one, enjoying his life with Sakura even though they live in a relatively small apartment and don’t have too much to show for themselves. What does come across very well is the love that Jeff and Sakura show for each other. It’s a very real and very well written relationship – if you’ve ever been in love then you can relate to the deep feeling between the two and just how well Eric Brown puts that across.
So, it’s clear from the off that we’ve got a different type of novel here with different motivations and well structured character relationships. When we move on to the investigative and telepathic side of things, once Jeff has had a new well paid job and state-of-the-art implant, the novel kicks into gear and moves along at a good and steady pace. The set-up is established and the case starts to get deeper and deeper until the pieces start to point to one place – but why? This is what kept me turning the pages and trying to figure out just what exactly was going on. It’s fairly obvious from early on what the outcome could be, but the questions of how? why? when? what? – you know, that feeling you get when you’re really enjoying a story and just want to get to the part where it all gets explained – pushes you on and on.
I was more than happy with the conclusion and Eric Brown managed to write a damned good story and got it across in a very effective way. I can’t say that this is better than Necropath, but it certainly is different. The tone is lighter and more optimistic and the ideas and concepts dealt with are bigger, but it’s just as good a read. I would recommend this without hesitation and strongly suggest that you start the journey from the beginning to fully appreciate it.