Very good, both in its development of the characters and of the
logical continuation of the Stargate story. I was hooked.
The politics were intriguing, and the story was solid. Only a few
places where leaps of "just too convenient" were made. One of
these, of course, was the end. I saw the conflict between the
suddenly turning into a battle against a common enemy -Hathor, coming from
half a book away. But it was fun, anyway. The mining company
officials were really slimy and greedy, and we really wanted the Abydans
to win this one.
It seems that Earth (make that American) military decided that the quartz
crystal that the Abydans mined was just too valuable to let go. They
didn't close up the stargate for good, they left it alone for a while, until
they got organized.
United Mining Company was hired to run the excavation of the quartz.
Unfortunately, they thought they had a company of slaves to work from, because
they weren't ready to pay for the work, and they expected quite a bit in
return. It was pretty funny to watch them negotiate with Kasuf, the
leader of the Abydans, and I got angry along with Daniel when UMC started
taking advantage of "his" people, which was right away.
Daniel is the one who introduced them to money, to workers rights, and
after a man is killed because the UMC people think he's faking sunstroke, he
organizes a strike. All of that is very satisfying to read, because the
bad guys, who are the corporate monsters, get what they deserve! It is
really neat to see them steal students in an English class from Daniel,
because they are using televisions and computers for the job, only to find the
natives returning to Daniel after they see through UMC objectives.
But the UMC people have backup in terms of the military. Colonel
O'Neal, the leader of the first expedition to Abydos, is responsible for
security. But UMC doesn't like the respect that O'Neal has for the
natives. He trains Skaara and others in desert warfare, and gets in
trouble for it. A general is sent in after him, somebody who plays by
the book, but apparently has no experience, and wants to do things his way, no
questions or suggestions asked. This is, of course, pretty stupid, and
before long, he has tanks and helicopters flying towards the main city of
Nagada, to quell the natives. At the same time, Skaara has mobilized his
people, who are on their way to meet the tanks in the open desert.
Nobody is prepared for what happens next. A spaceship arrives, in the
shape of a pyramid...
For from the beginning of this book, we get to observe the transformation
of Hathor, a subordinate of Ra, into a pitiless leader. Unfortunately,
she also deals with her underlings in the same way as the American
General. She is awakened from a several centuries-long sleep to find Ra
missing, and a council splitting into political factions. More is being
done to gain power than to rule the empire. She immediately takes over
in the only way she knows -violence. She kills the leaders, leaving some
opponents to live, however. They make strikes against her, and then she
kills them. She would have been better off following her first
instincts. The battles between Hathor and the others were well-written,
however, and were pretty exciting.
Hathor is angered by the moth-balling of her starship fleet in preference
to the stargates. She immediately orders the refurbishing of one of the
ships so that she can fly to Abydos and take control, at the same time finding
out what happened to Ra. She doesn't give her experts enough time,
however, but they do what they can. And when she tries to expend any
energy against targets, her ship starts falling apart. I saw that
happening chapters and chapters ahead of when it happened.
When Hathor comes across the tanks, helicopters and ground troops of the
military and the Abydans, she opens fire. She cuts off escape to Earth
by settling the spacecraft on top of the stargate pyramid. But the
military, especially O'Neal, have learned how to fight against her airborne
troops, and were ready for war already. They had missiles in
reserve. An ambush destroys nearly seventy-five percent of Hathor's
fighters! And an incompetent worker, who gave enmity to Hathor instead
of loyalty, opens the doors to rescue some of her fighters, thus letting
O'Neal's troops inside the spaceship. That is the beginning of the end
for Hathor, and she is forced to abandon the dying ship. She escapes
through the stargate, but not before Daniel glimpses her figure (the most
sexually appealing of all) and her headpiece -the cat. This sets up for
his seduction in the next book!
O'Neal is caught in a quandary! He loves the Abydans as his own
people, but he owes allegiance to the military. He doesn't dare resign,
and he thinks that he might be of better use to them with the military
connections that he has. So he helps train Skarra and some others in
warfare. I liked Skaara's plans even better. He thought there
might be other oppressed people on other worlds connected by the stargates,
and he wanted to help liberate them. This is great stuff; unfortunately,
it all gets left aside in the wake of the next books.
Unlike the series SG-1, Ra here is the only hybrid. The others
started dying off long before he merged with a human. He chose the most
beautiful humans to become his oppressors, and that is why the Horus-guards
are so man-like, and why all the other Egyptian gods looked the way they
did. And that is why Hathor is such a beautiful woman. She uses
sex as a tool, even when she slept with Ra. And she doesn't want to give
up the power she gained being one of Ra's chosen ones.
I liked the way this book came together, especially the logic from the
different points of view. The miners were not expecting to encounter any
organized resistance to their plunder. They were on another planet, and
thought the laws didn't apply to them. But they kept going farther and
farther, and eventually snapped. The way the military capitulated to
their demands is absurd, but it set up the readiness for the battle against
Hathor. If only the rest of the series could have followed along these
lines. Ah, well...