I had wondered in what direction the story would go after what seemed like an arc-ending plot in the previous book, Guardian (finding the Dancers and then bringing them to Earth). But in this book 4 of the Beyond the Frontier saga, author Campbell continues to impress and somehow manages to completely up the ante. But it isn’t all new storyline: reoccurring themes such as the mystery of the ‘dancing lights’ in hyperspace, as well as newer plot developments of the secretly constructed new fleet are brought up here again and more tantalizing hints given. It makes for great space opera: overall story arcs across the entire series, smaller story arcs across subseries, and then several book-only arcs all weave together superbly.
Story: Geary is vacationing on Earth with Desjani, dealing with the homeworld’s endless bureaucracy and paperwork. When two of the Dauntless’ officers are kidnapped, Geary tracks them down to a world wiped clean by a man-made virus and then strictly quarantined. Meanwhile, he will also be sent on a seemingly insignificant errand to deal with Syndicate refugees. He’s going to find that the Syndicate isn’t quite done with him yet. And as for the Dancers – they are leaving tantalizing hints that something is very wrong in the universe. And at its heart, the Alliance itself.
All the usual battle scenes are here – with a surprising and inventive new battle at the end. There is also a lot of soul searching as Geary begins to realize he might just be guided by the Living Stars after all. Themes such as his reliance and growth from Rione and Desjani are given new light when he is separated from the Dauntless and instead accompanies Duellos on a seemingly futile mission. And an old menace from the very first book makes a reappearance to cause mayhem.
I have to hand it to Campbell for creating yet a new, highly significant, and very dangerous enemy by the end of this book. He will, literally, have to completely change everything he does/knows about warfare if he hopes to survive. And, of course, his reliance on his officers is now especially important.
The one thing you can count on with Campbell’s books are the many Chekhov’s Guns throughout most of the early parts of each book. I was greatly surprised this time and didn’t spot any of them until the reveals at the end. Some are subtle, some are obvious, but all show the thought that goes into the writing of each of these series.
The question is: in this 10th book in the overall series, are the plots/books still fresh and do we still have all the great space opera action, human characters, and unique plots? And the answer is an unequivocal yes. I eagerly await the next book – and until then will continue to follow the Midway-set Lost Stars series as well (which had an appearance in this book).
Note: I chose the Audible version of this story and it continues with the same narrator as all the previous books.