In this fifth installment of a sci-fi saga, a 47th-century intelligence agent spies on aliens who may have forged an alliance with a hostile race.
Sirius Kade of Earth Intelligence Services is enjoying his vacation with his girlfriend, Marie, notwithstanding an assassination attempt. The likely culprit behind that effort is Manning Thurlow Ransford III, who chairs a corporation funding the Separatist Movement. The group’s objective is to turn Earth’s colonies into “criminal fiefdoms.” Kade’s EIS controller, Lena Voss, calls him in for a mission, an unusual request from Tau Cetins, an “Observer civilization.” While they’re the nominal leaders overseeing a galactic treaty, they rarely intervene. Fearing a second war instigated by a race known as the Intruders, the Tau Cetins enlist Kade to keep an eye on the Xil, who may be in league with the aggressors. Kade, co-pilot Jase Logan, and engineer Izin Nilva Kren board the Silver Lining and trail a Xil envoy to the planet Valhalla. The trio helps a religious colony fend off attackers, including human Separatists, who are apparently getting chummy with Xils. Kade’s assignment takes him to other planets and star systems, where he encounters various civilizations and races and sets out to foil the Intruders’ secret, diabolical agenda. Though there are instances of blistering action, Renneberg’s (The Mothersea, 2016, etc.) novel is primarily a bracing espionage story. Someone tries both framing Kade for a crime and hacking the Silver Lining, while trust is scarce; even Marie, according to Lena, is a Separatist sympathizer. The futuristic backdrop is profuse: Humanity is in the midst of an interstellar civil war and a second probationary period to join the Galactic Forum. But readers will recognize the problems facing many of the arresting characters in the author’s densely plotted epic. Izin, for example, endures mistrust from others simply for being a tamph, amphibious “cousins” to the feared Intruders. Likewise, Renneberg aptly portrays strikingly different worlds: “Before me lay a vast, semi-arid savannah stretching to the horizon beneath a fierce white sun.”
A steadily paced and exhilarating espionage tale involving the threat of galactic war.