Rating: 7.2 (out of 10)
Eric Brown’s Binary System is as old fashioned as sci-fi adventure gets. Its cliffhanger thrills and heroic derring-do recall the pulp-era storytelling of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers comic strips of the 1930s, though the mostly hand-wavey science is convincing enough to pass the post-golden age smell test.
In the Farscape-ish setup, Cordelia Kemp is propelled through a wormhole after an accident tears her spacecraft apart. Her life raft crash lands on the planet of Valinda, 10,000 light years away from Earth and home to three distinct sentient species. Two of those species, the primate-like Fahran and the crustacean-like Vo, are native to Valinda, but live under constant threat from the oppressive Skelt, a locust-like, hive-minded race that invaded the planet several millennia before, but had devolved technologically since being cut off from their space-faring brethren. Cordelia, believing herself fated to live the rest of her life as the only human on Valinda, vows to help the Fahran and the Vo in their struggle against the Skelt. But secrets buried in the cultural history of the Fahran hint at the reason for her arrival on Valinda, and she soon discovers her fate might not be sealed after all.
Brown is the kind of writer that has an affection for the tried and true conventions of classic adventure storytelling, giving them just enough of a personal spin to keep them from coming off as tired clichés. He also has a genuine fondness for the characters and worlds he creates, and the settings and sequences are imaginative and exotically rendered. The science isn’t the only thing he waves his hand at, however – there are plot holes and contrivances peppered throughout, but nothing so egregious as to keep the reader from having a good time and desiring a return trip to the world of Valinda.