This week I decided to review Linesman: Confluence by S. K. Dunstall.
The story starts with Crown Princess Michelle and Radko, Ean Lambert's bodyguard traveling to their homeworld of Lancia where the Emperor reveals that he has arranged marriages for both of them. He wishes for Michelle to marry the leader of the Worlds of the Lesser Gods, ten worlds whose allegiance would allow Lancia to effectively control the New Alliance and positioned near Redmond, the plotters who sparked the war between the New Alliance and the Gate Union and controllers of all current human production of the lines, alien technology long ago recovered by humanity and now vital to human space travel and many other purposes. For Radko he has arranged marriage to Sutter Dow, a merchant infamous for destabilizing economies before Lancia swoops in and picks up the pieces. To stall for time, Radko joins a covert mission to Redmond sent to obtain a report on experiments being conducted on linesmen, humans who can interact with the lines. But the mission is soon forced to flee to the Worlds of the Lesser Gods where they will discover a multi-faction plot, including Lancian traitors seeking to seize the alien Confluence fleet that is vital to the New Alliance.
Meanwhile at Confluence station, Ean works to train new linesmen to crew the fleet, but he must also fend off attacks by the Gate Union and lead a mission to aid a besieged New Alliance system while still struggling to learn all of the secrets and weapons of the alien vessels. But unbeknownst to him there are enemies far closer then he knows, and they are far more powerful then he or his allies can imagine...
I give this book 8 out of 10. The political maneuvers and intrigue are handled well but the combat was far less interesting to me. Still, that front was better then the last book. However, I wish there had been more focus into the origins of the alien fleet, specifically into the concerns about the war they had apparently fled from and what it mean if their ancient enemies are still out there. These concerns got mentioned briefly and I was looking forward to seeing where they led, only to have the story set them aside for more focus on the conflicts between human factions and frankly I find the clash between the Gate Union and the New Alliance in this story dull. What's worse is I feel it has a lot of potential but this book reduces it to a sideshow for the most part.