Okay, one of my favourite locations in Plexis, the interplanetary floating trading post of Julie Czerneda’s The Clan Chronicles: Tales from Plexis, is definitely ‘Claws & Jaws,’ the interspecies restaurant. And one of my favourite characters in said restaurant is the owner, Huido, the giant, kind-of-crustacean-like alien who could smash anyone with a swipe, and is often quite grumpy, but cares more about the food and the clients than anything else. He’s often connected with some shady people, but not in a terrible way so much as a cost of doing business on Plexis, and that’s where “The Restaurant Trade” comes steps up.
We start with a human dropping by and casually telling Huido he has a recipe that Huido has openly admitted he’d “give his claw” for. The price is too high, of course, and Huido leaves it at that. Until the human is assaulted, Huido becomes a suspect, and it’s time to delve into the mystery of who’d assault a man for recipe data, and how Huido can clear his name (and, okay, maybe also end up with the recipe?) It’s almost a caper-style story, with a few twists, some alien races, a flim-flam or two, and then, ultimately, a witty little turnaround at the end that puts everything to rights—or at least, to rights for Huido.
Like almost all the stories in the anthology, Butler’s “The Restaurant Trade” would fly solo, and can easily be enjoyed by anyone who hasn’t read the Trade Pact books from Czerneda, but as it’s a shared world and the Trade Pact books are so good, it’d be a shame. Still, if you’re looking for an anthology with some fun, some dark, some action, and some feeling, at one point or another in the book, this one does them all.