The second volume in Holgate’s (Human Trials, 2014) Humankind sci-fi series explores the worlds populated by the descendants of Earth.
Young Jown’s world is thrown into turmoil when a space cargo shuttle hits his apartment building, killing his parents. The shipping company is found liable, and Jown is awarded a cargo ship of his own. He uses this ship, Gater, to leave his home planet of Blue and begin the trading profession, hauling cargo from planet to planet. By traveling through the rings—phenomena that enable ships to jump to other systems—he can reach a wide range of worlds. However, it is solitary, dangerous work, subjecting him to pirate attacks and occasional run-ins with Space Force, the policing authority. On one escape from pirates, Jown discovers a base in what seems to be an asteroid. Upon further inspection, he realizes that the base is unlike anything he’s ever seen; its builders were definitely not human. Ancient alien artifacts had been found before, but these instruments seem new and in perfect working order. Jown decides to present his information and artifacts to the ES Corporation, a research and development group known for its discretion. There, he meets Ellie Goodwater, who has secrets of her own: she left her home planet to avoid being framed for a politician’s murder. Her desperate escape went wrong, and she briefly took a transport ship hostage, releasing it as soon as she was safe. Nevertheless, there’s a bounty on her head. Jown and Ellie work with the scientists of ES as well as a brilliant retired physicist and his wife, a skilled translator. They discover that the aliens are indeed alive but are under deadly attack from another group called the Consumers—who are on a direct path to the ringed system. The group races against time to unlock the aliens’ technology to defend their worlds from certain destruction. Holgate succeeds at imagining a vibrant, realistic universe. The intricate level of detail for ships, technology, battle tactics, etc., will certainly appeal to die-hard sci-fi fans. He usually treads lightly with this, however, keeping the pace lively and the more general readers entertained. Some may be disappointed not to learn juicy tidbits such as what the ominous Consumers look like, but Holgate leaves little doubt of another volume in his series, in which he’ll likely reveal that and much more.
An intricate but fun sci-fi romp.