Chuck Gannon’s debut novel and first Caine Riordan book, Fire with Fire, is Jack Ryan in a first contact story.
Caine is a writer and researcher, sometimes a journalist and spy, and a polymath. His inability to waste mental energy on things he doesn’t care about and his tendency to ignore mission priorities in order, for instance, to save an innocent life, make him a handful to the coalition of governments that send him as their agent to Delta Pavonis, but his unpredictability also helps him worm out of apparent dead ends and traps, subtle and not-so-subtle.
In the Delta Pavonis system, monumental archaeological finds clearly show that the system’s principal planet once held intelligent life. The real finds are being suppressed by big industry, though, which wants not only to extract fossil fuels from but also establish manufacturing on the planet, which will let them become the cheap and therefore preferred industrial supplier to the frontier. Caine’s ability to outmaneuver his corporate hosts through the false fronts of formal protocol and the twisting passages of outright subterfuge lead him to discover first, that the size and nature of the finds has been downplayed and second, the intelligent life itself.
Even making it off the planet alive, though, is just the beginning. Back on Earth, Caine and his new partner find themselves embroiled in the layered lies and drawn-dagger politics of multinational blocs, international corporations, and first contact.
Fire with Fire is a great read. It’s a brisk, intellectually-rich adventure story, very much in the vein of Tom Clancy, with smart, hard science fiction ideas in place of Clancy’s cold war military hardware. I can’t wait to pick up book two.