Legitimacy: The Vanilla Cycle: Book One - M. H. Van Keuren
At 650 pages, a story becomes too lengthy, unless it’s skillfully told. And this book is very skillfully told. The characters and the future setting are believable and the story is interesting.

Part of this novel is set in space, however no light sabers are drawn and no ray guns fired. Indeed, the only instances of violence occur not in space, but in a Bangkok boxing gym and over breakfast in a refugee camp. Large battles are planned and fought, but the action doesn’t occur on battlefields. And the enemies do not readily show themselves. They mostly lurk unseen in cyberspace.

In some ways, Teague Werres, with his robotic lemur, reminds me of an early William Gibson cyberpunk. However, Teague is very much his own man, not Gibson’s. Son of American missionaries and self-raised in Bangkok, Teague is street smart and ambitious. Presented with an opportunity to study far from Earth, Teague finds himself among the wealthy and influential. If he is clever and lucky, he’ll survive with his integrity intact and avoid becoming their pawn.

Compared to Teague, Rob is less complex. He is somewhat naive, under-ambitious, and loves liquor too much. Yet his heart is pure. Before the two are through with each other, Rob and Teague will interact in complex ways leading to unexpected conclusions for both. The book ends where it should, however there remains much to learn about the fate of the two men. I hope there’s a sequel, and soon, because I really want to know what happens next.

I liked Van Keuren’s first book, Rhubarb very well. However, I enjoyed Legitimacy even more. While Rhubarb is a satirical romp, Legitimacy is wholly serious. While Rhubarb describes a simple man’s desire for romance and escape from a dead-end job, Legitimacy is more fleshed out and philosophical. Both books involve conspiracies. The one in Rhubarb involves space aliens, while the conspiracy in Legitimacy involves humans. You can imagine which conspiracy is more frightening. That’s right, people can do really scary things. What’s worse is that they can be subtle in how they go about it. This was an intriguing book. Like rhubarb pie, Van Keuren is addicting.