Nobody will ever confuse Fortunes of the Imperium (Jody Lynne Nye; Baen) with great SF, but it’s a likeable, fluffy little confection of a book that had me thinking “Wodehouse…in…spaaace!”
Lord Thomas Kinago and his imperturbable aide Parsons ride again (this is a sequel to the earlier Views of the Imperium). Following a regrettable incident involving a skimmer race and an extremely ugly statue, the young lord’s formidable mother, acting in her capacity as as the First Space Lord, has (horrors!) saddled him with actual work, sending the duo on a diplomatic mission to the Autocracy of the Uctu.
Hostile aliens are bad enough, but Kinago is also saddled with his cousin Jil, a glittering beauty who believes she has reason to want to be far away from the Imperial capital for a while after having rebuffed an infatuated gangster. How’s a man to get anywhere with his real assignment – investigating arms smuggling to the Autocracy for the Imperium’s intelligence bureau – with a shopping-mad relative and her entourage making him so dashedly conspicuous? Worse yet, rumor has reached Kinago’s ears that two of the vivacious and undeniably attractive young ladies attending Jil have been qualified by his aunts as matrimonial prospects…
Complications ensue in the form of an unexpected reapparence by the aforesaid gangster, a most curious and alimentary form of smuggling, and a dastardly plot against the lonely young Autocrat of the Uctu. Can Lord Thomas’s wits, luck, generosity, and genetically enhanced aristocratic charm carry the day? Will cousin Jil ever get enough shopping? Can the specter of matrimony be successfully evaded? And how will Lord Thomas cope when he discovers the ubiquitous and indispensable Parsons to be helplessly immured in an Uctu prison cell?
It’s all good silly fun that Nye obviously had a good time writing, only slightly marred by the fact that one of the central plot conceits doesn’t actually work. To reassemble a solid object from nanite dust you’d have to pay the energy cost of all the covalent bonds that would have been present to begin with if the object had been manufactured in bulk. For anything metal this is comparable to the cost required to melt it, and that energy has to come from somewhere at reassembly time.
Ah well. This sort of thing is why SF has the one-McGuffin-but-FTL-doesn’t-count rule. Enjoy; I did.