This is the second book in the series and I think I had forgotten almost everything about it as I got started reading. It’s only been two years, but still. It didn’t help that it’s an audiobook with one reader, but four distinct narrative threads. So when one chapter ended, if I happened to miss whose it was, it always took me a second to place myself. Not the book’s fault really, but here we are.
Marko Kloos is mostly known for two things — the Lines of Departure books and being part of the George RR Martin Wild Cards writer group. He comes across very much as a GRRM acolyte in the sense of writing the book in multiple narrative threads with a singular focus for each. It works here as I imagine it worked for the first book.
So the situation here is a human colonial planet system with multiple types of planets and multiple cultures that developed after colonization related to factors for each local planet. The cultures are not super distinct — one likes spicy food! — but the planets are, and that’s helpful. This is NOT Lois McMaster Bujold. Anyway, there was a war 8 years ago and one of our lead characters Aden was a military commander of the losing side and spent five years in prison. After he got out, he joined a hauling crew and that’s where his story is right now, a kind of roguish storyline. Another storyline is his sister, the daughter and possible heir to a fortune also on the losing side’s planet, but with political intrigue. We also get the story of a police/anti-terror group on the winning planet’s surface. Lastly, we have a Naval (space navy!) commander investigating a series of ship destructions.
The plot here is moving all the pieces forward for a final novel obviously, but mysterious terror groups are consolidating power to potential wipe out the gains from the war.
This novel picks up right where the last one dropped off with a nuke going off on the surface of one of the colonial worlds. Because of the arms race and the Cold War, there’s an outsized (though still horrifying) understanding of what a single nuclear bomb (even a big one) can and would do, and this novel does a good job of keeping that perspective. We’re used to the image of a nuclear attack setting off a chain-reaction of events, but this is singular.
This novel also places our naval guy in command of the most technologically advanced warship in the history and seemingly, because of the access to specific resources, the only one possible. The airships in this series work through competing AI systems, and this one is described as being 40k times the size of the next down, which means it can do all kinds of things like hack weapons systems and comm sensors, and it does. It’s a tide-turner if there’s another.
But we’re not sure if there is going to be another war. For now, there’s a a series of terror attacks and pocket resistances. In general this series sides on the side of stability and order (or put another way, empire), but it mostly leaves off on moralizing, which makes it more readable. And getting to the end of the novel, it becomes clear that this one wasn’t meant to end at three books. And given that his last series went to 8, I feel confident we’ll be getting more. (He should probably be one of the writers GRRM hires out the rest of the GOT books to).