RETALIATIONA novel by Bill McCay
(1996, Penguin Books)
Stargate Sequels, book 2
Earth scientists try to disassemble and analyze the spacecraft Hathor left behind on her last visit, while Hathor tries a more subtle approach to reconquering Abydos.
-- First reading (paperback)
This book had more of a slow start to it than the last one. That may be because I couldn't see the buildup coming. There was less politics and more repercussions from the last book. There were a lot more contrivances, too.
Essentially, we have a civil war on Abydos. We are introduced to the farmer peoples (where did they come from? They weren't even hinted at in the movie or the first two books). The people of Nagada have formed gangs, have bought into the trade of money full-force, and a black market has sprung up in no time at all. How the heck did this happen?
It turns out that Hathor sent some of her people to Abydos in disguise. Two of her guards became citizens, and they stirred up all sorts of trouble. Most of the black market and the civil strife seemed to come out of that, but not all of it. The disputes between the farmers and the miners was caused by the money issue, and the fact that people don't want to work for money anymore. Shipments of crops to the city have been falling to pirate attacks, who seem to be people who trained under Skaara for a while. The wield blast-lances and machine guns. We get to see lots of their dealings in weapons.
When a "constitution" is agreed on between the leaders of the miners (Kasuf) and the farmers, the farmer is murdered and Kasuf is nearly killed. The person who did it, a Horus guard, was wearing a yellow wig to simulate Daniel.
Daniel gets into a lot of trouble in this book. His strife with Shauri seems to be brought in from nowhere, but it understandable from her point of view. She complains about his lack of commitment, especially in the way he insists on using a condom during sex. Then, he publicly disagrees with what her father is doing while leading his people. But the last straw is when a stranger, Faizah, joins his English class, presumably from the farmlands. She is so beautiful that every single man on the planet gawks after her. She is, of course, Hathor in disguise.
Faizah becomes Daniel's brightest student very quickly. She helps translate the manuals and other heirogliphics on the spaceship that Hathor was forced to abandon in the last book. She listens to Daniel's problems... Finally, she seduces him. But before they can get to sex (I believe), she notices that he has in his possession the Eye of Ra, which she knows is a key to his secret spaceship, the Boat of a Million Years. She takes him there, and after he escapes her, she flies the thing to Abydos.
In the time between Daniel's seduction and his return with news of the spaceship, hundreds of Horus guards come through the stargate, leaving their own planet nearly undefended (I wonder if this will come up in the next books), and recapturing the stargate on Abydos. They press their attack, defeating all the marines at the base camp, capturing the mines, which they start slave labor on immediately, and make their way towards Nagada.
Fortunately, reinforcements arrive from Earth pretty quickly, once they realize things have gone wrong. There is a neat scene where some veterans from the first Stargate book show up in Horus-guard disguise, but it is pretty convenient that only injured and incompetent people were guarding it.
Daniel arrives at pretty much the same time as the Boat of a Million Years. Hathor sends for all the quartz crystal available, while Daniel is put in prison. But knowing that their main translator was actually Hathor, the other translators realize that she was sabotaging their work. They begin tearing the ship apart, working for a way to bring as much of it back to Earth as possible. Daniel, meanwhile, escapes prison and goes to Nagada, where he convinces Skaara and Kasuf that they should evacuate their planet.
O'Neal arrives just in time to rescue Daniel, Hathor can't fire her weapons with pinpoint accuracy, and the way all of the citizens of Abydos are able to march from Nagada (not to mention the farming communities) to the stargate and get through it before Hathor realizes what is happening, and other convenient plottings make for an unbelievable adventure in the last pages of the book.
The ending was unexpected. The complete evacuation of the planet, with the loss of the stargate? The loss of the world? For one of the technicians pulling computers out of the derelict spaceship from the last book inadvertently fixes a problem with the weapons controls, allowing a lone translator to fire at Hathor's new ship. That activates the automatic defenses, which destroy the old ship, the pyramid, and the stargate, gauging a hole so deep into the planet's crust that the planet itself is destroyed.
I see potential stories for the inevitable sequel. But I have a question: Couldn't Hathor go to a closer world and attack Earth through the Stargate instead? But then she'd be deprived of her spaceship. The next book should be a sort of Independence Day! As for this one, it was certainly not as interesting as the previous book, and not as well prepared, either, though the battles with the Horus guards were exciting. I expect the next one to resolve the plot with Hathor, reconcile Shauri and Daniel (for she moved out when Faizah got too close to Daniel), and perhaps bring an end to the Stargate series. After all, what more can they do now that Abydos has been destroyed?
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