Marie Howalt’s The Stellar Snow Job is the first novella in the Colibri Investigations series. It follows Richard Hart, an ex-military private investigator, and his grouchy pilot Eddie as they track down a group of fellow humans on the verge of causing an inter-species catastrophe. Among this group of humans is Alannah, a writer for an inter-galactic travel agency who really should have asked more questions about where they were going…

The story is told from variously Richard, Eddie, and Alannah’s points of view, giving their takes not only on the events that are unfolding, but also their impressions and interactions with each other as well. Richard and Eddie have an important history together, both as outcasts of their respective professions, and now begrudgingly in alliance as a two-person investigative team. Alannah’s chapters are mostly told through her work as a travel writer, compiling notes, impressions and articles of her work travel-writing across the galaxy, and it is towards the end of the story that the three of them actually meet. Although this story is a whole and complete adventure on its own, it is definitely the beginning of a longer set of stories for these three, as Alannah’s addition to the team opens up new pathways for plot and character interrelationships and generally feels like the beginning of their adventures.

Howalt has squeezed references to many other classic space operas into this story: travel guide pages pop up between each chapter, serving as context and world-building to the universe of the story, much like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; rich world-building and extensive alien history and backstory feels very like Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series; and the presence of a highly valuable drug to help pilots navigate hyperspace feels like a nod to the spice of Dune. Then the mismatched duo of Richard and Eddie, who snipe constantly but ultimately respect and care about each other, feels akin to so many classic buddy cop movies that I felt I already knew their characters.

This is an enjoyable read with a surprising amount of depth and scope for something so short, and it will be interesting to see where Howalt takes the story in future instalments.

I was provided a free copy of this book by the author in return for an honest review.

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