||I remember reading this for the first
time, and being blown away by the action. Since then, I've read a lot
more action, but this one is still really, really good. Now that I know
the secrets to all the little surprises, it's fun to pick up on all the
subtleties, especially on the alien planet. The characters were well
drawn out, and it was fun to see their hunches in action, the
revelations that they react to, and the effects their decisions have.
The second book is what I remember being most impressed with, and I
can't wait to continue the series.
Full spoiler review:
This book reads just like a Star Wars
novel -the author's style is instantly recognizable. There are always a
few political machinations, adventures on various planets, with people
doing other peoples' wishes without knowing it. And I always like the
twists he puts in his novel.
The action starts right away, and is
actually what had me pick up this book in the first place, as the first
chapter was included in my paperback copy of
The Last Command. Ruthless
aliens open fire as soon as humans try to make first contact. Are they touchy
or xenophobic? Do they hate humans already because of something they've
heard from another race? The clue is misinterpreted by Pheylan Cavanaugh
right at the beginning, as he sees the Conquerors targeting lifeboats
through their radio beacons, so he shuts his off, and instead of being
killed, he is taken prisoner. The answer will only be revealed later,
and we should be able to figure it out after book two, so I won't reveal
I think the best part was reading about
Pheylan's trials at learning about the Zhirrzh, and trying to escape
their custody. He discovers early on that the Zhirrzh have
faster-than-light communication, but there is no way for him to know
how, which is an interesting concept in itself, and is also only
revealed in book two. Pheylan is introduced to Thrr-Gilag, whom I had
completely forgotten about, and remember fondly, who actually has a
forward-thinking mind, and who doesn't take everything the Zhirrzh
leadership says at face value. Pheylan tricks them into giving him walks
outside, though they are using a stun-suit on him, and he manages to
sneak a few things into his room. But he can't figure out how they keep
finding out about the stuff he thought he secretly stashed. He learns a
bit about them as aliens, including the fact that they are using a
line-of-sight remote to control the stun-suit, so he covers it in mud on
one outing and tries to steal a starship. The significance of the Mrach
starship landing on the Zhirrzh was lost on me the first time I read
this book, but I now recognize it at a hint of what is to come.
Pheylan's father was once a member of the
Parlamin, but now owns a large electronics supplier, and still has good
connections. When he learns, unofficially, that Pheylan's body was not
recovered from the site of the slaughter, and might have been taken
prisoner, he immediately organizes a search party, though things do not
go as planned.
Pheylan's sister Melinda gathers all the
materials for the search party, but comes under scrutiny on Dorcas, the
nearest planet to the Conqueror's attack. The search party is able to
leave, but only under suspicion, and Melinda is stuck there as the
Conqueror's invade. She gets a chance to autopsy one of the Zhirrzh, but
is surprised by a ghost vision, something similar to what Pheylan saw as
he tried to launch the Mrach ship.
Aric, Pheylan's brother, gathers together
some Peacekeeper Copperheads, soldiers who can hardwire themselves into
their ships, making them much more efficient in maneuvering and battle.
Two turn back when they hear the search is unauthorized, and they manage
to help out on Dorcas. The others continue the search, which eventually
finds Pheylan as he is overtaken by Thrr-Gilag and being transported
from the Mrach ship back to his cell.
The father travels to Mra to try and find
out more about the Zhirrzh legends from the Mrach. He takes an interest in another
alien, and is maneuvered by the Mrach into leaving with her to visit the
Ychromae, who are illegally amassing a small armada to attach Mra. He
learns a lot that he didn't know, and didn't realize he didn't know,
about the aliens, how they resent humanity for taking on the leadership
of all races, and how they are being manipulated.
Finally, he learns that humanity's big
secret weapon, CIRCE, was just a fluke, that a coronal ejection
coincidentally zapped an alien fleet years ago as it attempted to ambush
a bunch of human ships. CIRCE has been the big threat since then, and
they can only imagine the chaos if it is discovered to be a fake.
There is a lot of detail in this small
book, a lot of maneuvering, and a lot of hints that things are not as
they seem, especially the Zhirrzh. This supposedly bloodthirsty race
keeps a prisoner and treats him well, insisting that humanity fired the
first shot in the battle, when it was clearly the Zhirrzh, and that
humanity is the bloodthirsty and violent race. Truly a difference of
cultures, and a huge misunderstanding. The elder Cavanaugh even finds
out that military intelligence has known about the Conquerors for six
months. That will certainly have an impact down the road...
As usual by this author, there is a bunch
of neat technology, but humans remain about the same as we are now. The
"plates" are tiny computers, probably about the size of an ipad. The
copperheads are an interesting idea, and I liked the way that so many
other races exist, but many were at each others' throats until humanity
came around to pacify them, some against their will.
The book was fast-paced, not too
complicated, but held a lot of information, some of which will only
become apparent in the later books. I look forward to continuing the