by Philip Palmer

Orbit Books, $14.99, 259 pages

Planet Belladonna is the universe’s dumping ground. It is where the criminals, murderers, psychopaths, and drug addicts are shipped. In order to get there, a person has a 50/50 shot at surviving the hyperspace jump. Once there, Lawless City awaits, and people have nothing to lose.

In Philip Palmer’s Version 43, a cyborg detective of the Galactic Police is sent to investigate the murder of six health workers, one of whom is the Sheriff’s son. The cyborg’s body is mechanical but originally was human and every time he is killed and recreated into the next version of himself (hence the title), his tactical knowledge is preserved but personal memories are wiped. Version 43’s database tells him he has been to Lawless City three times before, over a hundred years ago, in an attempt to destroy the crime cartel and clean things up. The politicians are just as corrupt as the criminals and the wealthy pay for organ and limb replacement with ease. Now he’s back to deal with murderers and to annihilate the black market in stolen body parts. Palmer’s style is unique among the sci-fi genre. He stays away from technical discussions and focuses more on character development.

Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin