An addition to Douglas’ medium-future alien-warfare series (Singularity, 2012, etc.).
To get newcomers up to speed quickly and efficiently, and refresh the memories of series regulars, Douglas opens with a briefing paper from the Agletch, aliens willing to trade information for metals. The belligerent alien Sh’daar and their myriad client races, of whom the Agletch are one, have technology superior to Earth’s and seemingly intend to prevent human technology from progressing beyond the point the Sh’daar consider threatening. Now, a human research vessel has been destroyed under suspicious circumstances, and the Earth Confederation has sent a fleet to combat the presumed invaders. On Earth, meanwhile, former space Navy commander Alexander Koenig, now the newly re-elected president of North America, ponders how to implement his mandate—independence from the increasingly authoritarian and incompetent Earth Confederation. But as the space fleet engages the powerful Slan, another Sh’daar client race, the Confederation’s European faction launches a pre-emptive strike against North America and its most powerful ally, Konstantin, an artificial intelligence buried beneath a crater on the far side of the moon. As regulars might hope and expect, the action is full-blooded and almost nonstop, yet the well-developed background is surprisingly rich and logical. The Slan, for instance, far more than boilerplate weirdos with a few extra tentacles and eyestalks, are heavy-planet beings with radically different senses, motivations and psychology. Neither are the characters mere stock villains or heroes, but personalities with doubts and fears and hopes. Still, tension and excitement drive the narrative, and Douglas supplies them convincingly and relentlessly.
As immersive as it is impressive.