ANGELMASS by Timothy Zahn
TOR, September 2001
A mini-black hole near a group of human-inhabited worlds has been emitting impossible particles. The particles are called angels because they appear to encourage their wearers to do good. Fearing that these angels are actually an alien invasion, the forces of Pax prepare to invade, first sending scientist Jereko Kosta to investigate.
With little more than a few weeks of preparation and an entirely paper background, Kosta has little chance to succeed, especially when he becomes involved with con-artist Chandris Lalasha. Chandris is running for her life, but sees a chance to get a berth on an angel-search ship as an opportunity both to lay low, and to score the biggest score of her life. She can't figure Kosta out. Somehow, he doesn't fit into any of the categories and this makes her nervous.
Despite political pressures, Kosta begins to discover secrets about the angels that neither Pax nor the humans of the Angel's own system suspect. Whether the angels are, truly, quanta of good as some believe, or somehow intelligent themselves, they have a definite impact on the people they come in contact with. Fortunately for Kosta, one impact seems to be that they become almost criminally lax in their security.
Talented author Timothy Zahn has created a fast-moving adventure yarn. Kosta was sent out as a trojan horse, supposedly easy to capture. Instead, he manages to dig deeper than anyone had expected becoming an unlikely hero. The speculation on the Angels, and the mystery that they pose, is well handled both from a scientific and from a mythical standpoint. Zahn makes you think about what makes people tick.
Readers are advised to engage in complete suspension of disbelief with regard to the security systems. The idea that anyone could infiltrate a computerized and modern research lab with as little background as Kosta offered is difficult to swallow, even in a security-reduced environment such as that created by the angels. Swallow hard and forget it--then sit back and enjoy the tale.
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