The Dire Earth Duology by James Hough

Escape Velocity (and this duology) will appeal to those who enjoyed all three books of the Dire Earth series. It has many of the same elements: exploration, the unknown, luck, humans being their own worst enemy, plenty of action, multiple POVs, and a lot of big concepts. But those who have not read the previous three books need not worry – although we have some of the characters from the previous books, this does stand on its own and readers likely will not get lost. Since we have one story here not broken up by an arc (and ending on a cliff hanger), I’ll review the duology here.

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Story: Skyler and his ragtag band are aboard a Builder ship – traveling for only a few months but in a time bubble where a thousand years have passed. His mission: go to the Builders home planet and free them from the aliens who have enslaved them. Captain Gloria Tsandi also has a mission – prevent the Scipio alien horde from capturing a human ship and gaining fold technology. She’s to go in behind enemy lines, recover or destroy a missing human ship, and then get out. Although Gloria and Skyler were born a millennium apart, their missions will converge as the Builders plan a deep game in order to free their people.

For those who wanted to know more about the builders, this is your series. We get quite a bit of detail about them – from how they look to why they released the plague forge on Earth and created the Subs. The information is doled out nicely and slowly amidst the action. Pure sci fi fans will enjoy that this pretty much takes place in space – with plenty of battles and pew pew. But Hough doesn’t spare the alien details and it doesn’t take three books to get to the knowledge.

As with previous books, there are plenty of surprises and the humans themselves are always their worst enemy. And if humans are the saviors of the builders, it’s not because of their ingenuity or mettle. It’s because they have dumb luck that always puts them in the right place at the right time to find the right answer. I know many didn’t like that aspect of the original Dire Earth Trilogy so keep that in mind here.

If I have one nitpick, it’s that the books still feel vaguely sexist and misogynistic. Even with a strong characters like Gloria and Sam, they somehow come off more as male but written as female – rather than true female characters. When the men are weak, they are annoying. When the women are weak, they are very girly and ineffectual. It can get annoying dealing with women unable to make a decision or waffling in the book.

So yes, this continues the story neatly and you’ll find a lot of the same very wordy descriptions of alien ‘things’. I found this particular duology flowed much more smoothly and went faster than the previous trilogy, however. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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