Published by 47North on December 9, 2014
Chaos Quarter is a surprisingly enjoyable space opera. The parts that are meant to be exciting serve their purpose fairly well. The parts that are meant to be funny made me chuckle. Characters have reasonably well developed personalities. As a classic space opera that doesn't require much thought, Chaos Quarter gets high marks for fun despite its adherence to genre conventions.
Rex Vahn is a Terran officer in the Commonwealth fleet who, having been "loaned" to the intelligence division, is sent to nose around the Chaos Quarter. Rex has cheesed off his superiors and their hope is that the mission will end with his death. Taking a souped-up freighter into the Chaos Quarter, Rex hires a Europan mercenary named Lucias to handle the ship's weapons, despite an ongoing war between the Free Terran Commonwealth and the Empire of Europa. Two unintended additions to the crew are a sympathetic hooker named Chakrika (who was still in Rex's bed when he made a sudden departure from a planet) and Lucias' illegitimate baby, whose unfortunate parentage explains the sudden departure. With that spirited start, Rex and his crew begin their trip through the Chaos Quarter.
Rex's adventure brings him into contact with the Perfected Hegemony, the rumored alien civilization he has been sent to spy upon. The aliens don't seem all that alien despite their aversion to technology (an aversion that explains their reliance on organic spaceships). The aliens nevertheless give David Welch an excuse to write some interstellar chase scenes and ship-to-ship battle scenes that are familiar but nevertheless lively and entertaining.
Chaos Quarter takes an occasional stab at deeper thought as characters discuss the Bible and whether Artificial Intelligence has a soul and free will and the nature of evolution, but the discussions are more distracting than enlightening. Depth is not the novel's strength. Themes like "slavery is bad" are not particularly profound but they give Rex an excuse for behaving heroically. The novel's strengths are its energy, the characters' likability, and a fun factor that comes from good storytelling. While Chaos Quarter didn't wow me, those factors might encourage me to read another novel with these characters if one comes along.