I always get the impression when reading Zahn that the book showing in my head is in black and white, not colour. This is less connected to any actual mentions of colours in the story, and more to the from-another-era feel of the tale. This is not to say that the story is poorly done, any more than Casablanca or The Apartment are poor films. The pacing is just different!
Oh, and I always get the impression while reading that there is no way I will ever be able to make a plot like this. It's just SOOO complex. And there's no "leading the reader" along by the hand, these things are HARD to figure out, if you even do.
With this story, Frank Compton comes out of his apartment one day and finds a man who falls dead at his feet, in the best tradition of old-style mysteries. What makes the naturally interesting dead body even more interesting, however, is the fact that the body is carrying nothing other than a ticket on the Quadrail, in Frank's name- complete with accurate biometric info. Frank decides the dead body is a great reason to leave town now, and takes advantage of the ticket.
And soon he's recruited to help evert galactic war, carrying poison gas in his suitcase, traveling with a beautiful woman with a paralyzing fear of coral and friendships, and he keeps meeting travellers who are pretending to be drunk for no visible reason. (You fear the things done with no reason even more than the obvious ones, in this kind of showdown) (Also I can tell you all these things and they aren't even spoilers because they take place in like the first four chapters of the book. MANY THINGS HAPPEN.)
I must say that after reading so many romances lately, it was rather surprising for there to be no romance in this story. I kept expecting it to start growing, and it kept not. :D There was friendship, sacrificial friendship! But not romance. On the other hand, this is only the first book in a series, so perhaps it will grow in the other four books in the series! Which I now must add to my list of Books To Buy. Sigh.