Cosmopath is the last book in the Bengal Station trilogy, preceded by Necropath and Xenopath. I really enjoyed these books about psychic private detective Jeff Vaughan set in the expanse of the Bengal Station, and with Xenopath delivering a stronger story and a more widescreen view at the galaxy I had very high hopes for Cosmopath - hopes that were exceeded with ease!
Moving on a few years from the events of Xenopath, Jeff and Sakura are now settled with a family of their own. Life is good for them both and Jeff's work keeps them very happy and comfortable in Bengal Station. After the murders of a few telepaths on the station Jeff is approached by billionaire Chandrasakar who would like him to read the mind of a dead employee which will involve Jeff travelling to the far reaches of human space to a planet with unclear settlement rights and claims, and to discover just what the crewman died for - and why this planet is so valuable to Chandrasakar. Having to leave his family behind at the worst possible time is out of necessity and not choice, but without Chandrasakar's offer his family may suffer even more.
I love the Bengal Station books, I'll get that out of the way right now. Not only was it a joy to return to the familiar surroundings, it was great to rejoin Jeff and see how his life is going. What I've enjoyed about this series to date is the way that Eric Brown has taken a character like Jeff and let him grow and evolve to what we see on the pages of Cosmopath: a man dedicated to his family - he has settled down and is enjoying the sort of life many people wish for. When the bad news comes Brown very effectively shows us how emotions can take over and how the love for others will take priority, not only from Jeff's point of view, but that of Sakura too.
While it is the relationship between Jeff, Sakura and their girls that start the novel off so well, it is the relationship that builds between Jeff and Das (a member of Chandrasakar's expedition), and the relationship between Das and Chandrasakar, that carry the novel through to its exciting conclusion. With information obviously being withheld from members of the expedition to Delta Cephei VII it changes the dynamic of the relationships between many of the characters. This is a good thing, for it allows us to see events through Jeff's eyes and we can try and make sense of what is going on. It also allows Jeff and Das to develop a friendship of sorts that is not quite the usual, especially because of Das's own telepathic powers and her close relationship with Chandrasakar.
To go along with these interesting characters and relationships, Eric Brown gives us some great settings. Bengal Station is still the hub of space travel and this time we see more of what it offers its residents - it's not just a spaceport, but a city in itself and everything that goes with it. If you've read Necropath and Xenopath you won't find much has changed on the station, but its the familiarity that makes you feel at home once again. As for Delta Cephei VII, well that's a whole different ball game. Completely alien and utterly amazing, Brown describes the landscape so vividly that you can close your eyes and imagine you're there. The further the expedition travels, the more wonderful the scenes and the more satisfying the read becomes. Eric Brown can certainly present an alien world full of wonder and surprises.
The story proceeds at a good pace, but once the expedition reaches Delta Cephei VII things get very interesting. Suffice to say that going into more detail will give away much of the plot, but Cosmopath is firmly a 'just another page' type of book. You start reading and the tidbits that are scattered through the chapters are too tempting to leave, I certainly needed to know what was going to happen next and only put the book down when I had to. I was also very satisfied with the conclusion, but while successfully completing the trilogy it leaves so much potential for further exploration of this setting. Whether it happens or not is another question entirely, but these books are must-reads. If I had any gripes with Cosmopath it would simply be that some of the themes are very familiar, but because of the flair that Eric Brown has in telling the story it didn't bother me in the slightest.
So, another series come to an end and one of my favourites in a while. Although I have a soft spot for psychic detectives Eric Brown delivered a consistently good series and Cosmopath was the icing on the cake. This has the sort of appeal that can bring new fans to the genre and highlights all that is good about sci-fi. Excellent stuff and highly recommended.