Sequel to Drake's excellent hard-nosed space swashbuckler Igniting the Reaches (1994). Following the collapse of a human space empire, the cruel and autocratic Earth Federation is attempting to reconquer the scattered colonies and outposts; sending forth buccaneering voyages of exploration to defy and oppose them are the libertarian Venusians. A new expedition, again led by the god-fearing, freedom-loving, visionary Piet Ricimer and his redoubtable henchman, Stephen Gregg, gets under way: this time the action is described through the eyes of nobleman, womanizer, and electronics expert Jeremy Moore. Their ship, with its state-of- the-art ceramic hull, is deemed capable of penetrating the bubble universe where most of the planets with surviving advanced technology are found. The practically nonstop mayhem involves engagements with Federation warships, encounters with monsters, crazed prisoners, aliens, and devolved native Rabbits, makeshift repairs to hull cracks, concealed troves of computer chips, and crash landings on icy wildernesses and trackless swamps. But there's little doubt that Ricimer and company will triumphantly bring the booty back to Venus, having delivered telling blows against the Federation along the way. Narrator Moore grows, gratifyingly, from insipid scapegrace into a competent, authoritative, battle-scarred veteran. For the rest, Drake did the hard work of invention in volume #1, and this installment just coasts along on battles, heroics, and ideology.