The Icarus Hunt

The Icarus Hunt

by Timothy Zahn


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From Timothy Zahn, Hugo Award winner and New York Times bestselling author of two landmark Star Wars® series, comes an  original new tale featuring a renegade space pilot, his unusual alien partner, and an unknown cargo that can change the course of galactic history.

Jordan McKell has a problem with authority. Unfortunately for him, the iron-fisted authority of the powerful Patthaaunutth controls virtually every aspect of galactic shipping. In order to survive, Jordan ekes out a living dabbling in interstellar smuggling for outlaw concerns that represent the last vestiges of free trade in the galaxy. So when Jordan and his partner, Ixil—an alien with two ferret-like "outhunters" linked to his neural system—are hired by a mysterious gentleman to fly a ship and its special cargo to Earth, they jump at the job.

Caution has never been one of Jordan's strong suits. But this time he may have taken on more than even he can handle. The ship, Icarus, turns out to be a ramshackle hulk, the ragtag crew literally picked up off the street, and the cargo so secret, it's sealed in a special container that takes up most of the cramped and ill-designed ship. As if that weren't bad enough, it looks like the authorities already suspect something is afoot, there's a saboteur aboard, and the Icarus appears to be shaking apart at the seams.

It doesn't seem as if things could get any worse. That is, until a beautiful crew member helps McKell uncover the true nature of the cargo he's carrying. With his enemies closing in on the lumbering Icarus, the unknown saboteur still aboard, and authorities on Earth pressured to turn them in, McKell and Ixil become fugitives. Their only chance is to stay one step ahead of their pursuers as they try to make it home.

A bold and epic novel filled with unrelenting action and a good dose of humor, The Icarus Hunt is a wild hyperspace romp through the galaxy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553573916
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/28/2000
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 168,053
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 16.80(h) x 1.12(d)

About the Author

Timothy Zahn is one of science fiction's most popular voices, known for pitting realistic human characters against a well-researched background of future science and technology. He won the Hugo Award for his novella Cascade Point and is the author of eighteen science fiction novels, including two Star Wars® series: the bestselling trilogy Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command and the Hand of Thrawn series, Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future. He is also the author of the novels Conquerors' Pride, Conquerors' Heritage, and Conquerors' Legacy and three collections of short fiction. Timothy Zahn lives in Oregon.

Read an Excerpt

They were waiting as I stepped through the door into the taverno: three of them, preadult Yavanni, roughly the size of Brahma bulls, looming over me from both sides of the entryway. Big, eager-eyed, and territorial, they were on the prowl and looking for an excuse to squash something soft.

From all indications, it looked like that something was going to be me.

I stopped short just inside the door, and as it swung closed against my back I caught a faint whiff of turpentine from the direction of my would-be assailants. Which meant that along with being young and brash, they were also tanked to the briskets. I was still outside the invisible boundary of the personal territories they'd staked out for themselves in the entryway; and if I had any brains, I'd keep it that way. Yavanni aren't very bright even at the best of times, but when you're outweighed by two to one and outnumbered by three to one, brainpower ratio isn't likely to be the deciding factor. It had been a long day and a longer evening, I was tired and cranky, and the smartest thing I could do right now was get hold of the doorknob digging into my back and get out of there.

I looked past the Yavanni into the main part of the taverno. The place was pretty crowded, with both humans and a representative distribution of other species sitting around the fashionably darkened interior. It was likely to stay well populated, too, at least as long as anyone who tried to leave had to pass the three mobile mountains waiting at the door. A fair percentage of the clientele, I could see, was surreptitiously watching the little drama about to unfold, while the rest were studiously ignoring it. None of either group looked eager to leap to my defense should that become necessary. The two bartenders were watching me more openly, but there would be no help from that direction, either. This section of the spaceport environs lay in Meima's Vyssiluyan enclave, and the Vyssiluyas were notoriously laissez-faire where disputes of this sort were concerned. The local police would gladly and industriously pick up the pieces after it was all over, but that wasn't going to be much comfort if I wound up being one of those pieces.

I looked back at the Yavanni flanking my path, one a little way ahead and to my left, the other two to my right. They still hadn't moved, but I had the mental picture of coiled springs being tightened a couple more turns. I hadn't run, didn't look like I was going to run, and their small minds were simmering in eager anticipation of the moment when I put a foot across that invisible barrier and they got to see how many colors of bruises they could raise on me.

I wasn't armed, at least not seriously. Even if I had been, blasting away from close range at three full-size Yavanni was not a recommended procedure for anyone desiring a long and happy life. But there was a trick I'd heard about a few years ago, a nice little combination of Yavannian psychology and physiology that I'd tucked away for possible future reference. It looked, as the saying went, like the future was now. Gazing at each of the Yavanni in turn, I cleared my throat. "Do your mothers know you boys are here?" I demanded in the deepest voice I could manage.

Three jaws dropped in unison. "It's late," I continued before they could respond. "You should be home. Go home. Now."

They looked at each other, their earlier anticipation floundering in confusion. Talking like a Yavannian dominant male was probably the last response they'd expected from an alien half their size, and the molasses they used for brains was having trouble adjusting to the situation. "Did you hear me?" I snapped, putting some anger into my voice. "Go home."

The one on the left apparently had faster molasses than the other two. "You are not Yavannian," he snarled back at me in typically Yavannian-mangled English. A fresh wave of turpentine smell accompanied the words. "You will not speak to us that way." Paws flexing, he took a step toward me—

And I opened my mouth and let out a warbling, blood-freezing howl.

He froze in place, his alien face abruptly stricken as his glacial brain caught up with his fatal error. I was stationary and he was moving, which meant he had now violated my  territory. I was the injured party, I had given out with the proper Yavannian accusation/indictment/challenge shout, and I was now entitled to the first punch.

By and by, of course, he would remember that I wasn't a Yavanne and therefore not entitled to the courtesy of Yavannian customs. I had no intention of giving that thought time to percolate through. Taking a long step toward him, I tightened my hands into fists and drove both of them hard into his lower torso, into the slight depressions on either side of the central muscle ridge.

He gave a forlorn sort of squeak—a startling sound from a creature his size—and went down with a highly satisfying thud that must have shaken the whole taverno. Curled around himself, he lay still.

The other two were still standing there, staring at me with their jaws hanging loosely. I wasn't fooled—flabbergasted or not, they were still in territorial mode, and the minute I stepped onto either's chosen section of floor I would get mauled. Fortunately, that was no longer a problem. The left side of the entryway was now free territory; stepping over the downed Yavanne, I passed through the entryway and into the taverno.

There was a small ripple of almost-applause, which quickly evaporated as those involved belatedly remembered that there were still two Yavanni left on their feet. I wasn't expecting any more trouble from them myself, but just the same I kept an eye on their reflection in the brass chandelier domes as I made my way through the maze of tables and chairs. There was an empty table in the back, comfortably close to the homey log fireplace that dominated that wall, and I sat down with my back to the crackling flames. As I did so, I was just in time to see the two undamaged Yavanni help their unsteady colleague out into the night.

"Buy you a drink, sir?"

I turned my head. A medium-sized man with dark skin stood in the dim light to the right of my table, a half-full mug in his hand, a thick thatch of white hair shimmering in the firelight. "I'm not interested in company right now," I said, punching up a small vodkaline on the table's menu selector. I wasn't interested in drinking, either, but that little fracas with the Yavanni had drawn enough attention to me as it was, and sitting there without a glass in my hand would only invite more curiosity.

"I appreciate what you did over there," the man commented, pulling out the chair opposite me and sitting down as if he'd been invited to do so. "I've been stuck here half an hour waiting for them to go away. Bit of a risky move, though, wasn't it? At the very least, you could have broken a couple of knuckles."

For a moment I gazed across the table at him, at that dark face beneath that shock of white hair. From the age lines in his skin he clearly had spent a lot of his life out in the sun; from the shape of the musculature beneath his jacket he hadn't spent that time lounging around in beach chairs. "Not all that risky," I told him. "Yavanni don't get that really thick skin of theirs until adulthood. Kids that age are still pretty soft in spots. You just have to know where those spots are."

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Icarus Hunt 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perhaps better known for his Star Wars, Cobra, and Conquerors series, Timothy Zahn is a favorite sci fi author. The Icarus Hunt is a tightly woven sci fi adventure chase across the stars that makes for fun reading. There are enough clues to make the mystery a bit predictable, but the chase is still entertaining, and this is a solid stand alone classic sci fi adventure with intelligent characters, interesting plot, and a story that reminds you about the risks in any journey.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book so much I read it twice. The 2nd time I read it I saw more clues and I enjoyed the book more the 2nd time around. I hoped that Timothy Zahn would write an other book with these characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Icarus Hunt, is an outstanding book filled with witty humor and mystery. The story is about a smuggler named Jorden McKell who finds himself taking on a contract to fly a ship to earth and finding out that the ship and it's rag-tag crew isn't all that they seem to be. This a 'must have' book for anyone who loves Science Fiction. Timothy Zahn truly is the king of Sci-Fi.
FicusFan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable space opera romp. Smoothly written, with interesting details. A cool SF book I enjoyed, even though it was a bit bloated and repetitive. Its a space opera type book set in a vast alien/human civilization. The main characters, Jordan McKell - Human, and Ixil -Alien, are gypsy traders - they have their own ship, but not state of the art. A powerful alien race owns the fastest star drive and won't share the technology. They are approached to fly a mystery ship the Icarus Hunt to Earth with a crew that is also hired one at a time. The ship has a sealed cargo and no one knows what is in it.They take up the job, and of course there are murders and accidents on board. They spend their time trying to find out who their secret on-board enemy is. When they land to refuel, it seems the ports are also after the ship, with bogus tips being called in about smuggling. There are also thugs who are stalking and attacking the crew when they are out of the ship.The main characters also have ties to the criminal underworld, so very few are who they seem. Eventually the mystery is solved, with another twist by the main characters and all ends well.The bloated and repetitive part is they keep going to different ports and the same thing (attacking) keeps happening. It could have been tightened up. The worlds and aliens were interesting. The main characters were well done. Ixil is described as being like a tall iguana, but I kept thinking Wookie. He has two small ferret like creatures that have a neural connection to him, and they go where he can't, and check things out. Their images are then dumped into his mind. They spend their non-roaming time living on Ixil's shoulders. They are called Pix and Pax and were cool. The other characters were ok, but many were just sketches.
ds_61_12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A starship captain is asked in a bar to ferry a ship to Earth. When he arrives at the ship there is a crew, but no owner. Together they get under way, but all to soon they find that there is a traitor amongst them. What is the cargo in the sealed bay. Is it a new stardrive that can break the stranglehold of the aliens on space travel?Good read. Good suspense.
LordRoe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While not exceptional in any way, The Icarus Hunt is a very good, solid novel. The story is good, and the universe is interesting. The only real weakness is its length, as it is a fairly short novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unforgettable characters, fast paced and an ending you wont see coming
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the main characters and their interactions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Humor, fairly good character development, twists & turns to baffle: a real treat. Recommend wholeheartedly!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Highly enjoyable read with an unexpected twist at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a whodunit for the sci-fi fans. A locked door mystery. It was a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There is way too much discription then there is to be discribed. I was looking for more dialog. By the time he draws his gun the perpatrator would have been long gone listening to the reteric. I grew tired of being in his head.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting read. I wouldn't mind reading more stories about McKell and Ixil. Only problem I had was following the convoluted story line at the end. I was left kind of wondering what the hell just happened. Anyway the good guys win, which I expected. Just didn't know how it was going to happen.
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Couldn't put it down
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Guest More than 1 year ago
i loved this book! i read the first um...3 pages i think and i was hooked by the the way the author writes and later by the mystery. in the last few chapters you learn what the mystery [and secrets] are and well you gotta like ferrets [or atleas kalixi ferrets]
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best that I have read in a very long time--I could not put it down. Zahn is a terrific storyteller and weaves his tale very well. I loved this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite book. It keept me turning the pages all day long. It's sence of mystery is what really kept me. If you've never read a sci-fi novel before; this is the book for you to start out on. It was clean. It didn't have all of the corruption that most things have now a days. I truly loved it.