Gregory Faccone asked me to read his novel, Tethered World Blue Star Setting. This is the second book in the Tethered World series. I reviewed the first one here.
The first thing I should mention is the very long prologue. There's like 40 pages of recap and people reacting to the events of the previous book's climax. It is framed by a long training exercise for our protagonist, Jordahk. This is a significant contrast to the previous book, which boasts of not only a In Media Res but also being headlined by a piece of in-universe propaganda, so the reader has no idea what's going on or why. For a while, I thought this book was going to be more of an anthology than a single story given the title (i.e. more "setting" focused than character). The pace picks up after this point but this is still representative of the rest of the book.
With this book, "Mystic" level technology has basically become "space magic". I feel justified in calling it that because the author's own page says that he is influenced by Arthur C Clarke's Third Law: "sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".
I have no problem with Magitek. I like that trope. My thing with it is how it doesn't appear to have a Magic A Is Magic A nature. Perhaps I missed something, which is certainly possible given how much thought Mr. Faccone put into world building, but it appears to me that the only rule Mystic tech follows is the Rule of Drama. Mystic Tech will always work always but it will just barely work, just barely be what you need and getting it that far is difficult, painful and risks a Heroic RROD. On the other hand, it is always awesome.
There is one Beam-O-War scene featuring Jordahk that is worthy of epic music as a background theme. Then there's the climax, which rates high on the Holy-Shit-Quotient and is fully deserving of its dramatic buildup.
This book has plotlines which, in my view, are not strictly necessary for the book. This includes Pheron Xammetrix's subplot, which is basically a Humiliation Conga all the way up to the climax. It has only a small effect on the main plot (important but small). I like this side plot. I find it interesting and it adds circumstantial stuff to the initial mystery that leads to the climax but it is curious on a first read through.
In retrospect, there are two plotlines. One is recovering Aristhal's old mystic ship and the other is investigating the strange behavior of the Perigeum starmada in order to stop their next encroachment.
Through out both plotlines, there is a strong message of "people in government are, with rare exception, greedy and lazy morons". It doesn't matter if it is Perigeum or Cohortium. The narration calls this the fallen nature of man. It makes sense and fits with the tone and setting but there is more than a whiff of Author Tract.
I think that the author did a much better job with the Perigeum this time. In the previous book, the characters of the Perigeum were flat and monolithic entities with lots of off-screen villainy. Here we see individual bad guys that are distinct from some "evil military officer" or "evil politician/bureaucrat" archetype and how they work against each other as much as enemies outside the Perigeum. We also see exactly what the Perigeum does to worlds under its control, retroactively spelling out what could have happened to Adams Rush in the previous book. Beuker is like a space-age "1984" hell-hole.
My opinion of the ending is as follows. It is bittersweet, its conflict closed in a satisfactory manner, and there's a good sequel hook. I have only one complaint. There is a Disney Death that zigzags so much that I don't know where it landed. It is frustrating, disappointing and leaves me feeling like They Wasted A Perfectly Good Character.
Technically introduced in the previous book, only now does she have a significant role. Khai-aLael Khrais
has several layers to her personality. She is cute and innocent but also reliable in all situations and skilled in combat. Her backstory is interesting. She reminds me of Nia from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, only more stoic.
It's nice to see the senior Wilkrests doing important stuff, both off-scree and on-screen. Usually in stories with kid or teen protagonists, adults are useless but that is not the case here. In fact, Jordakh prevents Khai from aiding his parents in a fight by basically saying "watch and learn".
Jordakh himself is still developing. He lacks the confidence that his elders possess but pushes on anyway out of duty, heroism, and perhaps desperation. He is an uncertain Determinator.
There is also a backstory/flashback for Aristhal, Jordakh's grandfather. It shows a glimpse of the Sojourn's Crusade. It was interesting to see him before he became a grandfather and a mysterious mentor.
The villain this time is Prime Orator Janus (orators are kind of like senators in the Perigeum government). He is a despicable sort and thus a much clearer villain than Pheron. While Pheron was definitely a bad guy, he had Villainous Valor. It's this sense of "I will accomplish my mission to the best of my ability" and "I am proud of the skill and intellect that I worked hard to cultivate". He did not display selfishness or pettiness. Janus is nothing like that. In addition to his Evil Plan, he has an odious personality; petty vindictive, gleefully wastes taxpayer money, and even ignores a diplomat to consider ways of "acquiring" the guy's wife. There are other villains but this guy is the Big Bad (considering the ending, maybe Arc Villain is more appropriate).
A couple of spelling or grammar errors. They happen in large works.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Tethered World Blue Star Setting" a B+
Click here for the next book review (a request): From Ice to Ashes
Click here for the previous book review (for fun): The Journal of the Two Sisters
This has been a free review request. The author requested an honest review so I provided one.
Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).