Travis Archer is a freelance bounty hunter who accepts an official assignment to hunt down and destroy the Star Wraith, a powerful but apparently unmanned ship with the nasty habit of appearing out of nowhere and destroying ships. Although Travis and his crew are the focus of the story, the narrative cuts to other scenes in a cinematic fashion. The more fascinating scenes of these reveal glimpses of a shadowy villain called Baorshraak, whose goals and motivations remain shrouded in mystery even as he appears to be the one pulling the strings.
Harrison writes with a distinct attitude that is very aware of the genre his story takes place in. References are made to the clichés of space opera, which he acknowledges and makes fun of even as he unapologetically takes advantage of them. Many ideas in this book are decidedly familiar--starfleets, space cowboys, humanoid aliens--but they are used well. There is a dry sense of humor that radiates not only from the characters but the narrative itself, as though it isn't taking itself too seriously.
Although this attitude makes for entertaining commentary, there are a few moments where it seems somewhat intrusive--as though it's the author speaking and not the character. Nevertheless, it's what adds an extra bit of sparkle to the already dynamic plot, which carries the reader to unexpected corners of this galaxy.
Overall, Shadow of the Wraith is a smartly plotted and entertaining space adventure that takes the reader on many twists and turns--the direction the story goes in is quite different from what is expected. But in the end, it's really the characters' voices--and Harrison's--that make it memorable. I ended up enjoying it so much that I suffered from two nights in a row of Star Wraith Insomnia--the inability to sleep due to the fact that I had to keep reading.
[This is a condensed version of the full-length review on my blog: Zigzag Timeline]
(reviewed the day of purchase)