Several months after the events of Skyward, the defiant humans of Detritus have gained a foothold on the orbital platforms surrounding the planet. Hyperdrive is a still a mystery, so they’re strategically stuck, with little intelligence about the Superiority which is keeping the humans trapped. One day, a mysterious ship carrying a previously unknown humanoid alien crash lands on Detritus, and Spensa must quickly set off on a covert infiltration mission she is ill-prepared for, to the enemy settlement of Starsight, a major Superiority settlement.
The bones of the story are fine, and carry the main arcs of both Spensa herself and the conflict forward. However, the books seems to drag for much of the middle. Interesting events occur but the pace is off, with perhaps too much exposition about Superiority politics and how they have led to this. The final section picks up, however, with a satisfying and action-filled conclusion.
Angie Kaneshiro is a Freehold-born high tech vagabond. She crews on commercial vessels trading between the various polities in Williamson’s Freehold Universe. She likes to dance, have sex and see new places. Then the Freehold War breaks out and things turn ugly fast. After barely escaping a major accident on a space habitat, she volunteers with the Freehold covert forces, acting as a guide for a group of elite special forces on covert missions.
Angie’s secret war is terrifying and gut-wrenching. She repeatedly puts her life at risk, is tortured, loses friends and has to kill innocents to protect herself and her team. As the novel progresses, it transforms from the chronicle of a fun-loving, easy going but streetwise woman to a much darker place as Angie sees her grip on sanity crumble away until there is only the mission first, and survival second. This transformation echoes the descent of the war for the Freehold from resistance to an unjustified aggressor to resorting to mass murder in order to survive.
Like The Weapon and Freehold, this book depicts the horrific effects of war on those who fight it without diminishing their heroism and bravery. The personal cost of killing innocents is very high, and in the end it all seems so wasteful.
Side note: There’s a lot of rather graphic sex in this book. In my view, it was not put there to titillate the reader, but because Williamson wanted to show that Freehold society is very matter-of-fact about such things, and more importantly because a female character can love sex without having to be a slut.
Scott Murdoch is the most secret of secret agents for the US government, until he exits the “business” and writes the ultimate book about investigative techniques; under a pseudonym of course. Then, while trying to lead a “normal” life, he is consulting the New York police on a murder investigation when his past life comes back to grab him. There is a massive threat to the United States and he is the man to deal with it.
There is a lot to like about this novel. First and foremost, it is a page-turner in the early Tom Clancy class. Despite the significant heft of the book, the narrative runs off with the reader. The first third is full of flashbacks, and even flashbacks within flashbacks, fleshing out our hero’s backstory and legend (both literally and figuratively). Murdoch tells his own story while the antagonist, a modern day, more intelligent, creepier Bin Laden, moves in parallel to enact his sinister strike on the soft underbelly of the United States.
I was on tenterhooks until the end, but the novel falls over in its overuse of action and spy movie tropes. Writing about computers straining and operators pounding on keyboards is silly in a screenplay and laughable in a novel. Action set pieces, while quite good, are always a flirting with Mission Impossible.
And yet, there is something deeper which this novel does well. Murdoch’s background as a loner and his shadow life as an agent resonate with the hidden world where protecting the innocent means setting aside conventional rules of morality. While these themes are by no means original, the manner in which they are written is at least thought provoking. Our hero is no white knight by any means. His motives are admirable, but he himself readily admits that his methods are not pretty. Perhaps I am reaching, but this may be the author’s attempt to explain why the world can only be safe if there are brutal men willing to do violence on behalf of the citizenry.
The author’s seeming desire to tie things up in a neat little bow at the end also bugged me. Things are just a bit too tidy, at odds with the theme of the book which is that no one ever leaves the secret agent world.
Fantasy/Science Fiction hybrid set on a world where one side always faces the sun and the other is always dark. The light side features science while the dark side is the realm of magic. Our hero Jack is a sort of spy/mythic hero and these are his adventures. Zelazny weirdness is all over the writing of this rather lighthearted tale.
This book is part of Ringo‘s Legacy of the Aldenata universe. Set about fifty years after the Posleen War, its main character is Cally O’Neal, daughter of Mike O’Neal. Her father believes her dead, but in fact she is an assassin and intelligence operative for a secret organization known as the Bane Sidhe. The purpose of the organization is to resist the autocratic rule of the Darhel. But that’s just the backstory. This novel deals with how Cally has to assassinate a counterintelligence officer. And how she falls in love with a rival agent. It’s complicated.
There is much to like about this book. Cally herself is deeply flawed mentally and she wears different identities like personae. She is probably over 70, but with rejuvenation the body is young, and she lives like a twenty year old. The bad part is the very long introduction. Before we get to the main action, half the book is spent on what is basically a tangent. While it neatly sets up Cally’s character and backstory, I still felt that it could have been trimmed. To add insult to injury, the conclusion feels hurried, with some characters barely getting a personality before playing important parts.
If you have read the other books in the series, you may like this one. But note that there are no Posleen to fight and it’s not really about combat.
The sequel to the outstanding The Weapon takes places a decade and a half later. Kenneth Chinran has assumed a new identity and is living peacefully with his now teenage daughter. However, he is found by the Freehold special forces and asked to do one more mission. Kimbo Randall, a member of his team that Ken thought had died during the attack on Earth, has resurfaced as an assassin for hire. We follow Ken and his new associate Silver as they chase down Randall across several planets.
The action takes place on Grainne, Mtali, Caledonia, Novaja Rossia and even Earth. It is interesting to revisit the places that were featured in The Weapon, especially Williamson’s over the top oppressive Earth. The action is constant and excellent, with Chinran’s first arrogant person voice a sardonic guide.
Ken Chinran is a tortured soul. He is reviled on Earth as the biggest killer in history, and feels personally responsible for the death of billions during the war. His daughter gives him a reason to live. Williamson very skillfully explores Chinran’s soul and his bleak outlook without sliding into corniness. This story is a journey of redemption, of sorts, and the last few dozen pages surprised me greatly. Almost to the end, I thought it was just a very good chase novel, but the ending raised it to another level.