Night Train to Rigel was a fun ride, merging SciFi and detective movies in the entertaining setting of a galactic Orient Express filled with alien spies and intrigue. The Third Lynx delivers more of the same, but this time out, Zahn gets too caught up in the mechanics of the plot and he makes his hero a little too brilliant.
The Third Lynx has the same opening as many classic detective movies, a murder on a train. But Zahn follows too many of the cliches, and that starts to make The Third Lynx a bit laborious. And this time out Frank Compton is a little too close to being supernaturally brilliant, so much so that it puts him into Thrawn territory, another Zahn creation who became absurdly omnipotent in his return to the printed page. But still this is a fun book, though a bit prolonged, as red herring after red herring gets tossed out onto the rails.
This time out there’s a missing alien sculpture with unknown properties left over from before the galactic war, a trillionaire’s murder, a missing son, a hive mind designed as a weapon looking to reestablish its galactic dominance through a horde of walkers, the rich and powerful of every world who have been infected by its coral. And in the tradition of the Maltese Falcon, the mysterious package is never really what or where it appears to be. And Frank Compton has to outrun not only the hive mind, but his own alien employers who are ready to give him the walking papers over his unusual methods.
Batya makes for a different kind of female sidekick, and Frank Compton is a throwback to classic detectives, but it’s really the setting that makes it all. Zahn makes the galaxy sparkle with intrigue, alien races and trillionaires conspiring among the stars. From a train that moves many times faster than light to an alien art colony to an archeological dig, and all the train stations in between, Frank Compton and Batya try to outwit a hive mind, and amazingly manage to pull it off.
Like Night Train to Rigel, The Third Lynx’s chief accomplishment is to remind us of how much fun Science Fiction used to be. Something that it’s easy to forget among the drab stacks of Banks, Stross and McLeod. Zahn’s galactic train books restore some of Science Fiction’s pulp heritage, and skip the pretentiousness.