Assassination is the only means the Confederacy have of implementing justice on planets outside their borders. Barney Boru has been sent to Lokar to assassinate the king, thinking he can implement the Walkaway Clause if things don't feel right. But bad politics back home mean that another assassin has been sent too, and soon things begin to feel very wrong indeed.
A disjointed style, with lots of info-dumping and PoV changes, make this an uneven read. Several characters make irreversibly fateful decisions based on seemingly very little rationale, straining plausibility. (And talking of plausibility, the gobs of social evolution neozen philosophy gave me a faint resonance with van Vogt's Gilbert Gosseyn of Null-A fame.) But unexpected events, non-monolithic cultures, and plenty of fast action, kept me reading.
This edition comprises three linked tales: the title novel, a novella and a novelet (these latter reviewed separately below).
Martti Seppanen is a private detective in an alternate Los Angeles -- it's the early 21st century, but science is more advanced. The discovery of cheap gravitic power has made the internal combustion engine obsolete, and various other advances in physics and biology have resulted in novel opportunites for crime. Oh, and real psychic abilities exist in this world, too. In the title novel, Martti is commissioned to find out what has happened to the leader of a major new religion. This leads him deep into various strange cults. (Some of the descriptions of religious cult leaders and practices skirt amusingly around certain well known ones that exist in our own universe.)
The stories are told in a matter of fact style that works well for detective fiction. Martti is a likeable character, and good at his job. Some of his more helpful intuitive flashes of inspiration, used to move the plot along, appear to be due to an unrecognised psychic talent. I'm not sure whether I like or am annoyed by the psychic element. It is used fairly arbitrarily in some places, yet is quite integral in others. I would have been happier if some firmer scientific basis had been given for it, in order to make this truly SF. (Of course, the fact that the gravitic power source is not described either doesn't concern me in the least, SF-wise.)
In the dark forests of Sweden and Norway, where a new ice age is beginning, the neoviking tribes have their own legend – of an Yngling, a youth who once saved them from destruction and will come again in time of threat.
But they do not understand where the real threat lies.