Chaos Terminal by Mur Lafferty

Alas that I did not receive this book in time to pitch it for work, as I had with its predecessor Station Eternity, the first book in the Midsolar Mysteries. As that latter was my favorite book of 2022, I knew I had to sneak this into my reading schedule sooner than later, and am so glad I did!

This is not, weirdly enough, simply because it’s the excellent sci-fi murder mystery that it is. It’s not even because of the amazing Tina, whom I adore. No, it’s because Mur Lafferty threw in some free therapy there when Mallory Viridian, our heroine, is getting one of her suspects, Reggie, to explain why he’s being so awful to his husband Max. Mal listens with calm neutrality, then gently dissects what Reggie is doing, in a way that made me (the Max in the relationship) better understand that I am not the problem. So if you, too, want a dose of free therapy with your classic mystery in space, then you absolutely need to read this terrific novel.

Even if you’re not as desperately in need of therapy as I am, I do recommend this book, with the caveat that maybe you want to read Station Eternity first. There’s a lot of interesting backstory to Mal and her abilities that is first explored and explained in SE, and finding out retroactively just isn’t as fun. That said, there may be spoilers for SE in the rest of this review, as these are now treated as established facts in Chaos Terminal, so consider yourself warned.

Mal is settling into her new life aboard Eternity, and feeling a way about hiring herself out as a private investigator. It was always easy enough amidst her fellow humans, but aliens have entirely different tics and problems. She’s also shying away from her connection to the Sundry, unwilling to be overwhelmed or even perhaps used by the hivemind that technically gave her her abilities. Thus she’s a little surprised when the creeping dread that first forced her to flee Earth does not seize her again upon learning that a fresh shuttle of humans is due to arrive at the station. Does this have anything to do with the station’s current administrator deciding to go on sabbatical with Eternity’s daughter, Infinity, effectively leaving Mal in charge?

The new shuttle arrives not only with humanity’s new ambassador to Eternity but also with several figures from the past that Mal would really rather not have anything to do with. When one of their companions is murdered, however, it’s up to Mal to figure out whodunnit and why. Ordinarily, this is a task Mal would carry out with aplomb. Alas, the Sundry are going haywire and won’t, or can’t, tell her why. As the very safety of the station and its inhabitants comes under dire threat, will Mal be able to save her new home, while coming to grips with her past?

I loved the pacing and construction of this mystery (as well as the free therapy!) but felt that it didn’t have quite the same impact, surprise-wise, as the first book did for me. It’s still a very solid installment with more than enough to satisfy both murder mystery and sci-fi fans. Definitely recommended, even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights that the first book did for me (tho I definitely have friends who liked this even more than SE, so YMMV!)

Chaos Terminal by Mur Lafferty was published November 7 2023 by Ace and is available from all good booksellers, including

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