Two Syndicate World star systems have fallen prey to a mysterious fleet of warships—a fleet controlled entirely by artificial intelligence—that is now targeting Alliance space. The warships are no mystery to Geary. They were developed by his government to ensure security, but malfunctioned. If the Syndics learn the truth, the war with the Alliance will resume with a vengeance.
As the government attempts to conceal the existence of the A.I. warships—and its role in their creation—Geary pursues them, treading a fine line between mutiny and obedience. But it soon becomes clear that his fleet is no match for the firepower of the machine-piloted armada.
With the help of the Dancer species of aliens, Geary has tracked the A.I. ships to their secret base in the supposedly mythical Unity Alternate star system where his fleet, the last hope of the Alliance’s future, will end the conflict at any cost…
My review of the previous instalment in this series was less than stellar. It was luckily not a bad book but, nonetheless, my disappointment with this series have been growing since some time. Therefore I am quite happy that, to me, this book represents a big improvement compared to the previous books.
One of my gripes with the previous books have been the unbelievable obstructionism and stupidity of the useless politicians, their endless machinations and how great a role this played in the story. Another one was the lack of direction. Geary was simply solving one problem after another that was thrown at him and a goal to strive for was sorely missing.
Happily this is not the case with this book. Sure, the utterly useless politicians are very present in this book as well but this time they are finding themselves trapped in the hole that they themselves have dug. Not only that but in said hole there are a whole lot of shit sandwiches that they also made themselves and now they are all forced to take a bite. Naturally it is Geary and the men and women serving under him that have to pay the biggest price for the politicians stupidity but, at least, it is a somewhat humbling experience for these assholes and, as it turns out, there are one or two of them that are not as useless and morally corrupt as the rest of the fuckers.
The book also have a clear goal. The path to said goal have a few twists along the way but there is no mystery about what Geary have to achieve. How he is supposed to achieve it, well that is not so clear until after quite a few revelations, twists and a LOT of action.
Some of the aliens, the “Dancers”, the friendly ones, that Geary had encountered during his adventures are back and they do indeed play a rather crucial role in how things play out. I quite liked this since I felt that all those aliens that Geary encountered were kind of left out of the story arc in the previous book. Not wanting to leave too many spoilers around but the communications between the “Dancers” and the humans do improve quite substantially which in turn improves the changes for Geary to succeed in his quest by an equally substantial amount.
As usual the writing is very good, the characters are well done and the action, the manoeuvres in space and the combat physics are really, really good. Speaking of combat, the losses on both sides are quite staggering and this is one thing that annoys me somewhat with this series so far. Not that there are losses in combat but in every book Geary’s fleet is whittled down by a fairly substantial amount and nothing is really replaced except possibly for Geary getting some already worn out leftovers. I really hope that we are going to see Geary getting some new hardware sooner or later. Especially since, in previous books, Geary encountered quite a few hostile species and I certainly hope that, when the formerly mentioned politicians, climb out of their self-made shithole that they actually start to use whatever brain cells they might have left and actually consider this threat to humanity.
The ending, although generally on a positive note, is not entirely a happy one. There are sacrifices that have been made and several characters that have been with us for some time are written off which saddens me somewhat.
It took me some time to get around to read this book after having purchased it due to my disappointment with the previous instalments but after having read it I have to say that I was quite happy with this one and I am now looking forward to the next instalment. I certainly hope the author continues on this path and, above all, keeps the political stupidity toned down. After all, if I wanted to read about political stupidity all I need to do is open a newspaper and read about the latest nonsense from the EU oxygen wasters.