My introduction to Brian Stableford was via his novel The Realms of Tartarus, which I loved. While I’ve picked up much of his other work, none of it has struck me quite the same way, whether the earlier, pulpy stuff or the later, more grim work. This book is definitely in the earlier category.
The story starts out well. If there’s a notable debt to Frederik Pohl’s Gateway concept, the story also focuses a little less on the clever technology and more on the adventure. Unfortunately, many of its threads fall apart at the end. While Stableford gets away with the fairly thin, pulpy characterization, it feels like he simply ran out of plot ideas toward the end, and his publishers went with his placeholder summary instead. It works only in a very rough way.
That said, I hadn’t realized there were sequels until today. The story could be seen as setting those up, but frankly it doesn’t do a great job of that either. Stableford’s an able writer, but this book is in many ways a disappointment.