Monday, July 18, 2016

Kindle Spotlight -- Ceres

The writing trio N.J. Tanger is back with the third installment of their Universe Eventual series. The book is Ceres. For my reviews of the previous two books, see BTW this review contains spoilers.

The plot picks up right after the end of Helios. The surviving crew of the Chimera are heading to the lost colony of Damascene in the hopes of getting supplies and repairs following their encounter with the psychotic AI Helios. Captain Selena Samuelson is exhausted, both mentally and physically, after the ordeal in which she lost her best friend. She's also hurting from the betrayal of former protagonist Theo Puck and ousted captain Marcus Locke. Their fate remains unknown.

And on Damascene, a very different struggle is taking place. This particular culture has rejected advanced technology and lives for the most part as a medieval society. Artisan in training Kerissa is commissioned to make a sculpture of a recently deceased child. Rather than making what is effectively a death mask, she decides to make the sculpture look alive. But this is in violation of the law, and she is arrested. Kerissa is brought before the mysterious Interlocutor who wants her help framing a rebel group for the crime. Kerissa goes along with the plan to save her mentor and fellow artisans, but when it becomes clear just how corrupt the Interlocutor and her troupe of female slave soldiers are, soldiers Hammid and Sanji bust her out of prison. Sanji is killed, but Hammid and Kerissa escape. The manage to get away, but it's a dangerous world beyond the city of Adan, and they face continual danger as they look for a way to avoid execution.

Meanwhile, on the Chimera, Selena embarks on a rescue mission to save crew members trapped on the other side of the ship. The trip is fraught with peril, and they don't even know if anyone survived the Helios' attack or their deadly escape into fractal space.

Eventually they will arrive at Damascene, but what kind of reception will they get? Can they enlist the aid of the colony ship Ceres, or will the Interlocutor prove too dangerous an enemy?

I had high praise for the previous book. I thought it was riveting and incredibly well-done. Unfortunately, I can't say quite the same for this entry. Most of the compelling characters are absent for this book, and a couple only show up in the epilogue. That means the authors must rely on the strength of new characters, and I don't think these newcomers are as interesting as in previous entries. Unlike Marcus, the Interlocutor is a very generic antagonist who doesn't carry much narrative weight. Hammid and Kerissa are all right, but they can't match the depth of Theo.

Also, the book needs proper editing. Typos and formatting mistakes pop up with uncomfortable frequency, something I didn't notice with the previous book.

Nevertheless, the story is strong enough that it kept my interest throughout, and I will definitely read the next entry when it releases.

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