Reviewed date: 2007 Mar 13
Whipping Star is the most bizarre book I've read in a long time. The heros are agents of the Bureau of Sabotage (BuSab), whose only purpose is to take whatever actions are necessary to prevent the government from acting efficiently. The theory is that an inefficient government cannot do a good job of violating its citizens' rights.
The trouble in Whipping Star is a threat to all intelligent life in the universe. Humanity and its allied species use stargates called S'eyes to travel between stars. The S'eyes are controlled by a race called the Caleban, and only one Caleban is left alive. When the last Caleban dies, everyone who has ever traveled through an S'eye will cease to exist.
A complication arises: the Caleban has made a contract with Mliss Abnethe, a wealthy and sadistic private citizen. Per the terms of the contract, Abnethe is slowly flogging the Caleban to death. Because Abnethe and the Caleban are private citizens, BuSab is prohibited from interfering directly.
The Caleban refuses to break the contract even to save its own life, and Abnethe's sadism will be sated with nothing less than the destruction of all life. BuSab agent Jorj X. McKie races against time to find a loophole in the contract. The Caleban agrees to help him, but communication is difficult because of an incredible language gap: the Caleban don't even physically exist in the same way as humans, so there is no common frame of reference.
Whipping Star is not a great novel, but the conversations between McKie and the Caleban are great fun. It rates a solid three out of five.