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The Icarus Hunt

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  2,420 ratings  ·  155 reviews
From Timothy Zahn, Hugo Award winner and New York Times bestselling author of two landmark Star Wars series, comes anoriginal new tale featuring a renegade space pilot, his unusual alien partner, and an unknown cargo that can change the course of galactic history.

Jordan McKell has a problem with authority. Unfortunately for him, the iron-fisted authority of the powerful Pa
Mass Market Paperback, 457 pages
Published July 5th 2000 by Spectra (first published 1999)
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Old Man's War by John ScalziStarship Troopers by Robert A. HeinleinPandora's Star by Peter F. HamiltonOn Basilisk Station by David WeberRevelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
Excellent Space Opera
120th out of 291 books — 1,726 voters
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. DickThe Caves of Steel by Isaac AsimovThe City & the City by China MiévilleThe Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael ChabonAltered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
Science Fiction Detective Novels
20th out of 105 books — 84 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 17, 2007 Brynhild rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: scifi fans
The twist at the end was totally unexpected and awesome, and I had to reread the book almost immediately with the new information. This book also has one of my all-time favorite quotes:

For a change, Lady Luck seemed to be smiling on me. Then again, maybe the fickle wench was just lulling me into a false sense of security while she reached for a rock.
A mystery, it just happens to be in space. I don't really have anything bad to say about this book. The characters are interesting, the premise and conflicts are fun, and you'll be trying to figure out what the heck is going on right up until the very end.

Also, Zahn's world-building is in top form in this book. I can't stress this enough. He created a whole universe, just for this book, and made it seem incredibly vast. With a couple sentences he can introduce a brand new race, social order, or
Ed [Redacted]
Every time I read this authors name I imagine fat, old Kirk shaking his fist and yelling, "Zaaaaahhhhhn".

Anyway, I actually read this because Nathan was wondering if Zahn was similar at all to David Weber. I hadn't read any Zahn before (except the first 30 pages or so of a Star Wars novel, I just can't read Star Wars novels for some reason, can't do it.)He rec'ed this one so here we are.

The Icarus Hunt is the story of a renegade space smuggler Han Solo Jordan McKell, who is hired by a mysterious
A brother of mine turned me on to SF writer Timothy Zahn (the author of a number of Star Wars novels as well as the Conquerors' Trilogy and Dragonback series). My introduction to Zahn came via The Icarus Hunt - a fun and fast-paced space opera jaunt through the galaxy. I thoroughly enjoyed the engaging characters, witty dialog and repartee, as well as the adventure laden plot (that reads like an Agatha Christie in space along with the requisite locked room mystery and Poirot-like denouement). Go ...more
Apr 25, 2008 Johnny rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Johnny by: David Wilson
Shelves: science-fiction
My younger brother, David, gave me this book. As I began to read it, I quickly realized why he did so. The protagonist, Jordan McKell, is amazingly similar to certain Traveller characters that my brother has played over the years. And also, let me say without spoiling it, that I was completely fooled as to the overall motivation of said protagonist. But when all was revealed in the final chapters, I knew why my brother had enjoyed this book so much.

But before that final revelation/climax, I felt
This is billed as a "space opera mystery" which sounds exciting. Action! Intrigue! Some sort of "hunt"!

Unfortunately, it doesn't really come together, despite actually having those elements. Delivering on a promise sometimes doesn't work.

Part of the problem here is that the book is too long and meandering. Mysteries tend to be taut. The Icarus Hunt could have used substantial trimming by the folks at Reader's Digest Condensed Books.

Someone once said that an author's first novel should be a myste
A pretty fun and fast-paced murder mystery/space chase thriller.

The galaxy of the book is populated with not-very-alien aliens, much like Star Wars. But as much as I prefer biologically/behaviourally unique aliens in science fiction, the relative samey-ness of the world-building didn't really bother me, as the setting is really just an inconsequential backdrop for Zahn's mystery plot.

I would have liked a little more character development, particularly for Ixil, who was the coolest and best chara
Bill Blume
Timothy Zahn is one of my favorite writers. The Icarus Hunt provides a perfect example of why. He breaks a lot of rules, but he's got the skills to get away with it. From the first chapter, you can tell the main character Jordan McKell packs a lot of secrets. You don't get to all of those secrets in the first chapter, and he even manages to hold onto some big ones all the way to the final chapter. Hard enough to pull that off with any character in the novel, let alone the main character and with ...more
A pretty fun read. This author is best known for his Star Wars novels, and while this is not one of them, it’s set in similar universe where one walks into a bar and finds members of a dozen alien species all nursing their beers and waiting for someone to start a fight. Also, the protagonist is a smuggler, with an alien partner, who owes big money to a big bad guy.

The plot is a version of a country house murder mystery. There’s a murder on board a spaceship, the crew are all strangers to each ot
Don't expect anything exceptional here, but still a good read.

As a science fiction novel, this is good stuff. Zahn does a great job with the setting and has a world that feels alive. Characters are pretty good, some of the relationships are streched a bit, but he makes up for it other ways. The plot was a bit weak, but that is explained by...

As a mystery novel, this was not really good. I could tell hew as really trying hard to setup some classic mystery plot threads, but man, they were either t
Ivonne Rovira
My husband and two of my sisters-in-law love science fiction. Me, not so much. The Icarus Hunt is the sci-fi book for people who don't like sci-fi, much as the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich is the mystery series for people who hate mysteries.

What Timothy Zahn has created is basically a gumshoe novel based in space. His characterization is wonderful, and the plot is more than satisfying. I've recommended this book to just about everyone I know.

And, you sci-fi fans, my husband -- a cert
The ending made this book worth trudging through long descriptions of (what seemed like) nothingness. Normally I see plot twists coming, but this was fabulous!
Sarah E.
- in brief: sci-fi suspense/mystery
- expansion: Jordan McKell is a small-time cargo runner who is asked to captain a ship, the Icarus, across the Orion Arm and back to Earth. He is in over his head almost at once. A crew member is murdered, a ruthless organization is after the Icarus’ mysterious cargo, and Jordan’s own past is warring with his current problems to see which can kill him first.
- my thoughts: Zahn can build a universe out of matchsticks and play-dough; this is perhaps his best, and
I really loved the first Timothy Zahn Star Wars books, The Thrawn Trilogy. As I read more (the two Hand of Thrawn books, and Choices of One), however, I felt that they didn't have the same strength. Based on that I probably wouldn't have bothered reading The Icarus Hunt, except that I saw it in the library and gave it a shot when I wanted a short, light read.

Some of my complaints about the later Star Wars books do apply (short on description, long on dialogue and action; a certain sameness to hi
This is my 2nd time reading this, and while I forgot who the murderer was, I think my subconscious remembered, because I was remembering things that I read better than I ever have before.

Jordan McKell has run up many debts in the past 6 years, forcing him to become a renegade pilot working for a crimelord. He lives in a galaxy that includes Earth, as well as many other planets…and aliens. One of the species is the Patth, which essentially is the police force of the galaxy. Jordan takes a job pil
Mary JL
Sep 17, 2013 Mary JL rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Any sf fan
Recommended to Mary JL by: I am a fan of this author
Shelves: main-sf-fantasy
Another winner for a reliable SF pro. Timothy Zahn as always tells a very good tale. Lots of humor, excitement and adventure. The synopsis above is very good, so I don't need to say much about the plot.

Jordan McKell reminds me q bit of Han Solo---but his alien partner, Ixil, is a very intriguing character---Zahn creates interesting aliens, as usual.

Recommended for any SF fan ;will be especially enjoyed if you like action and adventure SF.
Jim Sinclair
For the first sci-fi book I had read in a while, this was a fun one! It kept moving all throughout the story as the characters in the story also had to keep moving, literally not knowing where they would be safe or get attacked from behind.
Hired to transport a load of undefined cargo back to Earth, the eclectic, thrown-together crew of the Icarus soon find themselves being targeted and hunted by Governments, police authorities, bounty hunters, thieves and snitches looking for a reward for turnin
R.L. Drembic
This book was awesome. It is one of a few books that I would classify as one that you CAN'T PUT DOWN. The reality Zahn creates for this novel is brilliant and exciting. The mystery and intrigue is amazing as you try to figure out what in the world is going on. Zahn keeps you guessing right up to the very end. And that's where the fun starts. I don't think I have ever read a more disappointing ending, in part because it was built up so well.

For a more detailed review of all three books, go to htt
Ty Zeiter
I'm not one for reading science fiction in general, let alone military science fiction. I just find it really boring for some reason. I had already read a few other of Timothy Zahn's books by the time I picked this one up and had found his pervious books entertaining (he has fantastic plot) but really boring because his characters have a lot of long conversations I don't really want to read about and he spends an excessive amount of time explaining the design of a spaceship. But my brother had b ...more
Justin White
May 18, 2014 Justin White rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Justin by: The rest of Mr. Zahn's work
This is my favorite book of all time. I first got myself into reading by myself with science fiction from Timothy Zahn and fell in love instantly (it was a copy of the 3rd book of the Thrawn trilogy my brother owned but never read).

This book keeps you guessing until the end and even THEN you are going to be wrong. Zahn is a masterful story teller and in my eyes nothing he can do is wrong. I love all of his work, but The Icarus Hunt most of all.

If Mr. Zahn ever reads this, I just want to say than
Holy cow! This is without doubt my favorite book. it is an intense read, with a twist that is completely unexpected.
Janet Sketchley
This is one of those novels that I loved on a first read and appreciate just as much (if not more) on subsequent visits when I can watch the hints and clues drop into place.

If Alistair MacLean were to have written a space thriller, it might look like this. Twists, turns, people who aren't what they seem, and a protagonist I somehow trusted from page one even though his resume testified against him. (That might have had something to do with the way he dispatched three large, hairy aliens who pick
Leeland Artra
The Icarus Hunt is a good sci-fi read. I love Timothy Zahn’s story telling abilities. He is able to introduce complete new races with only a few lines bringing them to life with a true magician’s flare. The Icarus Hunt is by far one of the best reads. I dug in an enjoyed the whole mystery of what was going on. As a sci-fi action-thriller-soap-opera it flies high.

After all the fabulous character building, background filling, carefully plotted out movements, and intricate inter-weaving agendas the
D.J. Edwardson
The Icarus Hunt is a real gem of a story. The writing is fantastic and the pacing is excellent. It is solidly science fiction with alien races, spaceports, high-tech weaponry, and hyperspace travel. Any yet the heart of the plot feels very much like a crime novel. There is heaps of mystery surrounding just what exactly everyone is hunting the Icarus for.

The story's main character, Jordan McKell, is compelling, but ultimately he is not all that sympathetic or heroic (until the end) and this was t
Carl Bussema
A mostly-enjoyable tale of a smuggler, his partner, and a ragtag crew he's stuck working with all racing across the galaxy in a spaceship that seems to be wanted by the most important alien race in existence (most important because they generally control the entire shipping/transit industry).

Why the ship is wanted isn't discussed at all in the first half of the book, other than an assumption that they want what's in the cargo hold. I felt this went far too long and stretched the plausibility of
Fantasy Review Barn

Jordan McKell takes a job as captain aboard a strange ship that needs to get to earth. As a man with a good number of debts he couldn’t turn the job down, despite having a contract with a large criminal organization smuggling something in his own ship. Thinking quick he sends his iguana faced alien partner on the original run and joins the quickly thrown together crew aboard his new charge, The Icarus. Very quickly Jordan and the crew learn that the Patth, and alien race with
I am a big fan of Timothy Zahn. He is (deservedly) best known for his Star Wars novels, which are excellent and probably his greatest works.

However he has also written several phenomenal original works, of which Icarus Hunt is my favorite.

Jordan McKell is a down on his luck independent shipper who isn't "all that independent, actually, not anymore." A small fry smuggler for an organization that bailed him out of his debts, McKell gets in further over his head when he accepts a side job to pilot
Apr 01, 2008 Mike added it
Shelves: space-noir
I am currently "reading" this by having it as the book on tape in my car. That means that I get about an hour's worth of book everyday during my drive to work and from work to home.
So far I really like it, I'm witholding my rating until I finish it though, just to be safe.
I would say that this deserves a new(ish) category. I'd say this is Space Noir. It's like Future Noir but it's set in space! That is to say that this is at heart a mystery, and a space opera. It's the first time I've read somet
Camille Stanford
I truly enjoyed this book, and loved the twists and turns included. Characterization was good, making the story easy to follow, even when things began to get complicated. The world was clearly defined, with the various species and people described in detail easy to remember. I wasn't originally planning to read this book (I am more inclined towards fantasy), but after the first chapter or two I realized I was going to have to take this book home. The mystery of the spaceship, as well as the murd ...more
I recently re-read this for the SFSNNJ Modern Masters book discussion group. It was a fun romp with a lot of great mystery tropes (locked door murder, disappearing character, false identity, etc) and it works really well. The pulpy style of the story coupled with Zahn's love of strange and unusual ideas works really well, and the characters are all interesting, although not 100% likable in some cases.
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Timothy Zahn attended Michigan State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in physics in 1973. He then moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and achieved an M.S. degree in physics in 1975. While he was pursuing a doctorate in physics, his adviser became ill and died. Zahn never completed the doctorate. In 1975 he had begun writing science fiction as a hobby, and he bec ...more
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“No, of course not,' he agreed in a tone that implied he'd heard both the words I'd said and the words I hadn't said and would be mulling them over later on his own.” 1 likes
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