When I started this book, I was disappointed by the society that had
developed in the time since the previous book ended, which I think is
modeled too closely on our own. But the use of the Advancer technology made
up for it, especially later in the book. I quite enjoyed Paula’s storyline,
and the Warrior Angel’s take on Florian, while the PSR story didn’t engage
me as much as it probably should have.
I’m not a fan of modeling SF alien cultures
too closely on our own, especially in terms of technology. When the spider
race of A Deepness in the Sky became basically human, I grew quickly bored
and couldn’t wait until the book was over. In this book, the politics were very
human, and I grew weary and bored with it almost from the start. While I was
very disappointed to see cars, jets and Sputnik-type vehicles, there was at
least enough of a twist with the Fallers that it kept my interest going, if
barely. It wasn’t until Paula appeared and joined forces with the Warrior
Angel that the story picked up for me.
It turns out that Laura
Brandt, who was saved from the Forest at the end of the last book, and who
had been dying for three thousand years, over and over, in the desert, lived
long enough on Bienvenido to advance their technology to mid twentieth
century Earth. They’ve been destroying the Forest one tree at a time with
nuclear bombs, and she’s used her Advancer technology to activate the
wormholes that came with the original colony ship.
discovered several planets in the solar system where Bienvenido was ejected
to, a place where the Void apparently sends planets that try too hard not to
fit in. Nigel’s explosion among the Forest triggered this. Only two planets
appear to be inhabited, and one contains the deadly Primes, who will stop at
nothing to destroy all intelligent life except their own. Laura uses the
wormholes to bring the dense and toxic atmosphere from a gas giant onto its
surface, destroying it and the Primes. She dies doing this, but not before
she also transplants an aquatic species to Bienvenido to share their
environment. The destruction of the Prime world is a very exciting and
technology-based introduction, and quite satisfying.
meanwhile, has reconfigured itself into a ring, and continues to send eggs
down to the surface. The story picks up another two hundred years later,
where Svlasta’s legacy lives on -paranoia against not only the Fallers, but
against a coup. So his secret police roam the streets, ensuring all people
remain “equal”. No Advancer genes can go unregistered, while the police also
investigate Faller nests, which are increasing in number, despite the fact
that the jets can destroy almost all eggs before they hit the ground.
Chiang is an intelligent man, but he’s hiding some Advancer genes, so
he’s also the subject of an investigation, something he doesn’t catch on to
until much later. He’s been in contact with the legendary Warrior Angel,
Kyssandra from the previous book, who is leading the resistance against the
totalitarian regime, and more importantly against the Fallers. He discovers
a huge nest, where we are introduced to breeder Fallers, which are huge,
misshapen creatures that feast on humans and create more of their kind.
He also later goes in search of Florian, an Advancer who enjoys coding
in his isolated job as a forest warden, until he witnesses a spaceship fall
to the ground. I never thought we’d see Joey again, from the very early part
of the previous book. But like Laura, he was caught in a time loop until
Nigel blew up part of the Void, and has only recently been released. His
brain was downloaded into a computer, so he can’t do anything physical, but
he presents Florian with a baby girl, who grows up way too fast. This was
Nigel’s plan B, presenting the diplomat police woman Paula, a legend in the
The book struggles to show us the culture of this
planet, which is basically survival under a brutal regime, with a worry
about Fallers. We get Chiang and Jenifa’s love affair, even though they
don’t trust each other. There’s Ry’s trip to space to destroy one of the
Trees, and his subsequent escape to investigate Joey’s ship. I liked
Florian’s escape down the river, hideout with his dealer colleague, and the
uncomfortable chase into the city, where he hides out in his aunt’s old
mod-cave. By the time they leave, Paula is almost a teenager.
start to get interesting when they are captured, when they attempt to leave.
It was obvious that the mob boss knew about the extraction, given that he
“needed” one of his own people to be extracted only two days earlier -that’s
how they infiltrated the escape car.
Brought to another city, they meet a
rejected Faller, who is part human, part of several other kinds of
creatures. In the heat of the discussion-attack-destruction of the mob
house, Paula is forced to download all her memories and abilities in an
instant, allowing her to protect herself and Florian. Then they travel to
the south, where they meet up with the Warrior Angel.
has been waging a holding war against the Fallers, as well as undermining
the government when she can, there has been no innovation or real progress
on either front in more than two centuries. Paula arrives with fresh ideas.
While she wants to negotiate with the government, she realizes that the war
against the Fallers has been lost. Even with the help of the aquatic
species, the world outside the human continent has been overrun with Faller
animals, which the Breeders can control. Paula mounts a search over the
southern continent for one of the other ships from the colony convoy, which
must have crashed there.
The planning for the trip south garners
suspicion from Chiang and Jenifa, who surveil the ship they believe will be
transporting the Warrior Angel. It also gives Florian a chance to become
intimate with Kyssandra, and while he’s smitten, she’s just continuing to
explore her sexuality, as she did in the previous book.
attack in huge numbers, detonating a stolen nuclear bomb at a bomb factory
and almost doing the same at the dock where Kyssandra will launch from. The
breeder Fallers suddenly become public knowledge, where they were a squashed
rumor in the past. As they escape, the Fallers follow.
It is at the
southern continent that the threat of the Fallers becomes real. The author
weaves the danger of the ice and the airship with the giant Faller walrus
bears in an intense action sequence where they try to ambush the ambushers,
holding the great beasts off with Florian and the anadroids, prematurely
detonating the portable nuclear bombs the Fallers plan to use to stop Paula
and the Warrior Angel, and nearly killing them all in the process. They
finally escape through the new wormholes to one of the abandoned planets in
the solar system. I couldn’t put this section down, it was so well written.
It's here that they realize they are not alone in this rogue solar
system, so far from any galaxy. Paula figures out that the gas giant planet
is actually a prison for the Raiel warships mentioned in the previous book.
The planet they gate to is inhabited by tunneling creatures that have
abandoned the surface after a devastating war. A chance comment from Florian
to Paula makes her realize that another species is on a planet that used to
have bloom-like artwork on its moons before the Primes attacked, so long
ago. They left the Commonwealth galaxy long ago. She gates there to ask for
their help in freeing the Raiel, which they do.
prepares for the Faller apocalypse. They find several Faller nests near the
capital city, and they are all on the move. Joey, who has downloaded to and
taken over the body of the Prime Minister after curing him of cancer, tries
to organize to defend the city, but his security minister takes over, having
seen the changes in the chief and not liking them. In the secure bunker
below the palace, where the Commonwealth technology is stored, Bethaneve,
under a different name and with significant body changes in the last two
hundred years so no one can recognize her, secures the wormhole there, and
Chiang knows that the defense of the city rests with the Advancers. But
Jenifa shoots Joey just as he turns off the forcefield on the wormhole
there, and Chiang is forced to kill his lover.
It all comes down to
the defense of the city, where Kyssandra and the anadroids stall for time,
returning to fight the Fallers against overwhelming odds. Then the Raiel
arrive, and stop everything.
Humanity is scooped up and put into
stasis, while the world is left to the Fallers, which the Raeil exterminated
from the Commonwealth galaxy long ago. Humanity is returned to Earth, where
they can go where they want. I like the way Chiang meets with Edeard, both
outcasts from the void, and is invited to live in the same kind of rural
community on this sparsely populated planet.
The last chapter of the
book, the epilog, was the most romantic and enjoyable that the author could
have written for this series. Just a few pages, young Paula delivers
Kyssandra to Nigel on the outskirts of the galaxy. Nigel, thinking his clone
had killed everybody on Bienvenido, is shocked to tears, and runs to his
love with tenderness and passion. In all his long lifetime, I don’t think
he’s been as happily shocked as this. It was quite amazing.