An alliance of humans and aliens prepares for a devastating attack by a mysterious, destructive force from another galaxy in this sequel.
In Williamson’s (Encounters, 2012) sci-fi epic, the humans of Amular are drastically transformed by alien first-contact with a blobular species nicknamed the Loud (for the earsplitting howls through which they converse). A millennium more advanced, the Loud grant the humans immortality (best for consistent trade over light-year distances) and undreamt-of technologies. But shockingly, the Loud’s home star system is destroyed by a menace even they can’t comprehend, a theoretical superrace nicknamed the Spiral Slayers, who have been piloting black holes and annihilating intelligence-bearing worlds since time immemorial. The first book ended with the humans resisting hopelessness, determined to fight against a nearly godlike entity heading toward Amular. The sequel nimbly covers the two-century timeline of the Slayer ship’s 200 light-years approach, as a Loud-human coalition mounts defenses and fallbacks against the invader. But a psychotic, disgraced human politician, who, with newfound immortality, allows his feuds to reach extinction level, starts a conspiracy-minded, anti-Loud terrorist movement (not unlike today’s climate-change deniers). Moreover, the Capt. Kirk–like series hero, Adm. Adamarus Maximus, gravitates toward infidelity against his now-rejuvenated, loyal wife (one of the few campy conceits of the material: hotties with heavenly bodies abounding). And what if the Loud are hiding something after all? In this novel, the author continues a saga of cataclysm on a cosmological scale, rivaling big-ideas authors Gregory Benford, Alastair Reynolds, Olaf Stapledon, et al. Williamson’s introduction defends his decision to set the plot—dated 300 million years ago—around an Earth surrogate. With a parallel evolution, Amular has flora, fauna, and a society practically identical to Earth. But by sidestepping details like political parties and national and ethnic affiliations, he gracefully shears off baggage that might have been cumbersome stuff as events hurtle toward a white-knuckle doomsday battle. Perhaps the long-time-ago-in-a-galaxy-far-far-away thing will pay off in one of the two more projected volumes in the series. Readers should be eager for more of Williamson’s shock-and-awe storytelling either way.
Huge War of the Worlds stuff (war of the galaxies, actually): satisfying, tragic, and spectacular.