Fringe Station by Rachel Aukes

With this second book, the character POVs widen but the story itself narrows quite a bit. In fact, this felt much more like a heist book than a worlds-spanning science fiction space opera as our main characters break into a prison to free Torrent prisoners. There is plenty of action but most of it takes place on planet. Although I enjoyed the book, I have to admit that this feels like a typical ‘middle book’ filler that doesn’t advance the main arc so much as create a mini arc to pad out enough to create a trilogy. It’s not bad by any means but less satisfying as a result.

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Story: A year has passed since the events in Fringe Runner. Reyn, Critch, and Heid have been hiding low but it is clear Mason and Ausyar have plans that are going to come to fruition soon. The crews need supplies now that they have been fully outlawed. But even more, they need Vim Patel freed – a move that will not only be dangerous but require a questionable alliance with another station manager. As they plot their heist, betrayals will come to haunt them yet again as they work to outmaneuver Ausyar and especially Mason.

Heid played less of a focus in this book in favor of Critch. We’re also given a wider set of characters but the focus is always on Reyne and Critch (with a bit of Heid). Aukes smartly allows for more hard decisions by the crew, causing them to question what they will sacrifice and why this time their rebellion will succeed. If I had a problem with the characters, it’s that we’re not really shown why Mason has gone bad – we’re only told over and over again through Heid and perhaps Patel that Mason has perverted the Founders goals for his own power gain. The ‘bad guys’ feel very nebulous and undefined, which does impact the immediacy of the danger. Ausyar is a complete cipher.

There are some very poignant moments in this book – deaths aren’t showy and even tragic in their pointlessness. But the great scenes come between very large info dumps for the worldbuilding that perhaps could have been spaced out better so they weren’t so egregious. As well, problematic in both books is the cliche of the ‘villain boasting and revealing all his evil deeds’ that left a sour note in the first book and makes a small appearance in the second. It’s another example of too much tell and not enough show that hounded both books in the series.

In all, I enjoyed Fringe Station and look forward to the next book in the series. The characters are interesting and their story interesting to follow. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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