No Going Back, by Mark L. Van Name
(Baen, June 2012. Hardcover, 336 pages)
I have been following the adventures of Jon Moore and his predator class assault vehicle (PCAV), Lobo, since the first novel, ‘ One Jump Ahead’. Jon is the first successful hybrid of human and nano-machine technology and Lobo is the only truly intelligent ‘ AI’. Together, they form a remarkable team. But they are keeping secrets from one another, out of habit and necessity.
At one hundred and fifty-seven years of age, Jon still resembles a man in his late twenties. Technology has advanced to the point where a man might actually linger into his sixteenth decade, but he would more resemble an octogenarian than someone flush with youth. The fact Jon does not age has been mentioned in previous novels, as well as his everlasting youth being the reason he does not form close relationships. It’s an important factor in ‘ No Going Back’, however, as Jon confronts his past of over a century ago and Lobo contemplates their future. Jon and has very few true friends, but has Lobo and his intelligent PCAV is a better friend than he realises.
Lobo is worried about Jon. The man’s quest to save every mistreated child in the galaxy has become more than a focus. It seems to be Jon’s entire reason for being and he has been taking an increasing number of risks. In Lobo’s opinion, his behaviour is or soon will be, self-destructive.
Every ‘ Jon And Lobo’ novel combines action and adventure with the revelation and resolution of an aspect of Jon’s or Lobo’s past. ‘ No Going Back’ moves one step further and, in keeping with the title, presents the pair with a series of events and a final choice from which neither of them can turn, or return. The action rolls off the first page with Jon surfing down a sand dune toward his assignment, the daring rescue of children who are being auctioned off to the highest bidder. From there, we follow the duo as they answer a call from Jon’s past, a call which could unravel one hundred and twenty years of hiding and comes from the same planet as his current, most powerful foe. Jon is then faced with his past and present combined and a lead he has been waiting nearly one hundred and thirty years for: evidence his sister might still be alive.
In this novel, the action is interspersed with chapters from Lobo, which is the first time the reader ‘ hears’ his voice. In these interludes, set out like journal entries, Lobo not only expresses his concerns regarding Jon’s behaviour but reveals the fact he knows who and what Jon is and what he is capable of. Jon’s secret is not so secret. Lobo also gives many facts about himself and his own capabilities as an exchange and a legacy, should Jon require it. These chapters are compelling, for Lobo’s voice and what he reveals.
As always, humour adds levity to the darker themes in the form of Jon’s conversation with appliances and machines and the sarcastic interplay between Jon and Lobo. Oh and there is a love interest in this one, too, the progress of which is quiet and contemplate and serves to properly highlight Jon’s hesitance to connect with other people.
All in all, ‘ No Going Back’ is a very satisfying novel and the conclusion will guarantee fans of the series will be watching for any mention of the next instalment. Stay well, Mr. Van Name, we need to know what happens next!
(Written for and published at SFCrowsnest)