A Plague of All Cowards (1976)

An assassin attempts to kill all the members of the Colonial Congress, fails and consequently is hunted by many different people who want to find out who his client is. Meanwhile the oracles, sentient computers, watch the events undetected, furthering their own mysterious goals.

Strangely, unlike Barton’s first novel, this shows fewer traces of Barton’s typical style. It looks like an attempt to write a standard adventure fare, but does fail completely. It’s not a pain to read, but still feels on the whole rather dull. During the whole time you wait for something big happening at the end, a plot-twist that improves the mediocre hunt-the-assassin-plot.

Sadly that doesn’t really happen, and neither does the book gives a solid explanation for the whole subplot about the oracles watching the events. It looks like they intervene at some point in the story, and they got something out of it, but the reader doesn’t learn what it is and why (apart from some hackneyed phrases that explain nothing, like overmind now in reach).

While it’s better plotted than Barton’s first novel (sadly the plot is not good in itself), characterization seems to have suffered because of this and is worse than in Hunting On Kunderer.