Adda and Iridian are back for the third installment in Stearns’ Shieldrunner Pirates trilogy (Mutiny at Vesta, 2018, etc.).
Adda and Iridian just want to live together in peace, but it seems the entire galaxy is out to stop them. First it was the killer artificial intelligence on Barbary Station. Then, it was the noxious Oxia Corporation on Vesta. And now it’s those pesky awakened (meaning: sentient, self-aware, and therefore terrifying) AIs that have been trailing Adda and Iridian throughout their adventures. This third novel starts off with Iridian in prison and Adda trapped in a hospital, being treated for AI “influence,” a condition where an AI gains control over a human’s mind. When Adda has recovered enough to be put in a dormlike hospital room but not enough to be transferred to jail, she and Iridian manage to break themselves out and escape to a station far enough out in space that the authorities won’t follow them. Despite the great risk of being influenced again, Adda decides to find out what exactly the awakened AIs want from her. It turns out that the AIs and humans may share the same goals. If Adda agrees to help them, she and Iridian will finally be free to live their lives, but is it worth the risk? Much like the second book in the series, this final story feels episodic, which allows for lots of action and adventure even if it drifts a little. Stearns has clearly put a lot of work into fleshing out the world and the tech used here, sometimes including details that could be cut. Still, the final pages give satisfying closure to the trilogy.
A worthwhile finale to a fun SF adventure series.