Book Review: Inner Eclipse by Richard Paul Russo

Inner Eclipse follows the story of Benedict Saltow, a First Order Empath. The story takes place on Nightshade, one planet of many, but there is little of an empire to keep everything in order.

Benedict is hired by a mercenary-type called Ryker to follow him and another mercenary, Renata, to find alien intelligence in the jungles of the planet. This situation is made more dangerous because the planet Nightshade is the basis for an illegal killer drug Flex, addicts of this drug are all over the planet and Benedict helps one, a girl called Silky, who will soon die.

Russo does not make Benedict an empath and leave his power alone, Benedict has seizures when his empathic 'screens' fade. The screens are used to block out the background noise of the rest of nearby humanity, and without them Benedict has fits as the noise becomes overpowering. He has one of these fits early in the book and does not know when the next may strike. This and the introduction of one of his old friends gives a firm basis for Benedict's character to be developed from. Benedict seems a hard and callous man, but his cynicism is only an affect of his empathic problems and a massacre from earlier in his career that he blames himself for.

Most of the book is taken up with the meeting of the four main characters, then their trip through a dangerous jungle leading towards their goal. This gives time to develop all of their characters, including Ryker, who would have been left as a two-dimensional thug by many other authors.

The book is split into six parts, charting their meeting and journey, the first parts, area based in a city on Nightshade, where all the characters meet. The city is not a pleasent place, this is not a book where gadgets and high-tech equipment are at the fore, they are hardly noted at all, the personalities of the characters are what makes the book, not merely being set in the future.

By the time they are on their journey, first in a canal boat, then on foot through a jungle, their characters have all been given an foundation that allows for development during the closer contact during the trip.

During the course of the story we find out exactly why each character is the way they are, most deeply in Benedict's character, including why he blames himself for earlier events in his life, and why he is willing to go on an alien-hunt with a drug-addict and two mercenaries when he could be being paid pampering the jet-set of the human race, far from Nightshade.

The final part of the book is titled Inner Eclipse, where Benedict meets the alien intelligences and has a great unknown wish granted. This rounds off the story whilest still giving depth to the characters and explanations of why everything happened the way it did.

Title: Inner Eclipse
Author: Richard Paul Russo
Publisher: Grafton Books
ISBN: 0586209832
Published Date: 1990
Pages: 349

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Review by Paul Silver, April 1993