Fifty years after Steve Stuart and his friends captured an alien starship, the Solar Union is a thriving interstellar power, while Earth is increasingly backwards and falling into barbarism. For two youngsters from Earth, the Solar Union offers the only chance they will ever have to make something of their lives …
But humanity’s involvement in Galactic affairs has not gone unnoticed. The enigmatic masters of the universe have put together a fleet to crush the upstart humans before they can threaten the precarious balance of power. Pushed to the limits, the Solar Union must fight to defend its freedom – and the existence of the human race.
Although I had some reservations I did enjoy the first book in the series so it was a no-brainer for me to pick up this one, the second instalment, when it became available. This book continues the story that begun with the first book although it immediately zaps us 50 years into the future. The Solar Union is now a spacefaring nation while the nations of Earth are sinking deeper and deeper in the swamp of nonsensical political “correctness” and incompetent leadership. The initial surprise effect of discovering that we are not alone and all that advanced technology is (mostly) gone from this book and replaced by a more traditional adventure story of humanity, the part of humanity that are capable of elevating themselves above the expectation that the government should nurse them from the cradle to the grave that is, taking their first steps wandering out in the universe. Well, maybe first, second and third steps actually because, as the baddies are discovering, the humans catch on quickly.
This is one thing I like with this book. Although there are some of Mr. Nuttall’s apocalyptic views of the future results of our current breed of politicians (results which I unfortunately am not too sure that they are entirely fictional) it is much more positive than, for example, The Empire’s Corps. Not only does the Solar Union manage to avert the immediate threat from the “baddies” but they do so kicking some serious butt. That does not mean that it is a walk in the park though and by the end of the book there are still a lot of storm clouds at the horizon.
The book focuses primarily on three characters, Kevin, one of the original characters from the first book and two new recruits that decides to leave Earth for the Solar Union and enlist into the military at the beginning of the book. Thus the book is a nice mix of preparations for the coming conflict and the learning experiences of these new characters. The fact that they come from Earth, now a technological backwater world, means that we still do get a bit of the wow experience when these people gets confronted with Solar Union reality and daily life. Although I have to say that, no Mr. Nuttall, seeing a movie with all 15 Doctor Who characters in it is not something I would look forward to :-). Of course there are a fair amount of action as well. Given that one of the newcomers end up as a fleet officer and the other as a marine you can probably guess as to the type of action.
As usual the book is well written, the characters likable and with the right amount of balance between details, character development and forward movement of the story. With the first book I sometimes thought that things were done a bit too quickly, naively and simplistically. This is not an issue with this book since it is more about defending what is already there than to build a new nation from the start. Both books in the series have been good reading but I found this one the better of them.
From the ending it certainly appears that the author intends for there to be a another Learning Experience book. I for sure would want him to write one.