Following a fatal assault on their solar system by an advanced race, a human-alien alliance chases the marauders across the cosmos in a giant ship cloned from the attacker’s technology.
Nobody can accuse Williamson (Countdown Armageddon, 2016, etc.) of thinking small midway through a four-part saga. In previous volumes (absolutely required to keep up), human natives of the planet Amular no sooner form a beneficial relationship with bloblike, advanced aliens they named the Loud when both species face extinction via mysterious, ancient hostiles that the Loud (who know more than they’re telling) call Spiral Slayers. Technologically superior beyond comprehension, the shadowy race sends giant “Blackships” to pilot and position black holes to destroy entire worlds and star systems. In the previous installment, humans and Loud barely survived the devastation of an attack on Amular by damaging a Blackship. Here, using debris from the (organic) doomsday device, they successfully clone their own huge “Whiteship,” which serves as a ship/colony as well as the ultimate weapon, to chase and confront the tool of the Spiral Slayers. But, across the vastness of space, it takes millennia, with humans necessarily in suspended animation at intervals. Williamson’s narrative leapfrogs through time, discarding the measured pace of earlier books for one in which centuries pass in a sentence, and a paragraph summarizes sensational superscience that might have engaged another writer for a full novel. In a near Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy development, bees in the Whiteship’s vast indoor park evolve en route into a new sentient species whose intellect and engineering overtakes Homo sapiens; they’re a deux ex machina (buzz ex machina?) in a hornet’s nest of revelations at the end. There is technology sufficiently advanced that it appears godlike and sci-fi storytelling magnified to the dimensions of myth—the title may signify that Williamson is mining the Homeric rather than the Arthur C. Clark–ian—with only broad strokes for characterizations and some of the archetypal underpinnings starting to show (the human hero is named Adamarus, the heroine Evelyn, hmm...). A peep inside a Blackship dispels some awe—imagine The Dark Crystal, only ickier. But a breathless to-be-continued finale should have readers hooked despite the inconsistencies.
An uneven but wonder-filled middle chapter in a cosmic-epic series.