It starts feeling like one of the more ‘sciency’ books, with the discovery of life on Mercury–because of course. But that feeling is short lived, as it turns out the life is actually from Mars
, leaving Astrobiologist Victor Molina framed and disgraced–although the ‘who’ and ‘why’ are left unclear.
Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis / Lilith's Brood (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago) have been on my ‘to read’ list for rather a long while, highly recommended by any number of people. I see why now.
Dawn starts with humanity wiping itself mostly out and the titular Lilith waking up in the next best thing to a cell on what she later learns is an alien spacecraft. The aliens (the Oankali) are alien, with a culture and lifestyle built around exchanging genetic material with races across the universe, changing themselves radically along the way. They’ve given humanity a chance to survive–but only if we change ourselves along the way.
Third Shift: Pact doesn’t really feel like an ending. Although I guess given that Shift is a prequel of sorts to Wool, it makes sense.
The stories this time around are split between Donny (who’s taken Thurman’s place … somehow?) and Solo. Donny’s storyline does finally answer a few more questions: what is the real purpose of so many Silos and why are the powers that be okay with entirely losing them from time to time. It also serves as closure for Donny’s feeling of betrayal and loss of his wife–in rather a dramatic manner. The lack of fallout is a bit of a problem though.
On one hand, it’s better than Saturn . At least this time around, we spend the entire book around Saturn and Titan, with a bit more exploration into the rings of the former and on the surface of the latter. There are essentially three plotlines: a robotic probe sent to Titan is refusing to phone home, someone has to go back to rings to verify that they’re alive, and it’s election season again–this time with Zero Population Growth as the main issue.
The first–going into the rings to collect samples to prove that they actually found life– doesn’t make the least bit of sense. There are arguments back and forth about who is going to go and how dangerous it is. But… why? Couldn’t they just use a probe? It honestly fills like filler, although there are some hints of something much bigger going on here, since the life in the rings now seems to be alien nanomachines
(which: why? couldn’t they just be different?) After the artifact in the asteroid belt
plotline doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere, there are at least hints on more of a story to tell.
Second Shift: Order definitely has ‘middle book’ syndrome going for it, but in this case, it certainly works. You get a pile of answers to questions raised both in First Shift: Legacy and Wool along with filling out the world of the Silos.
It’s a fascinating dystopia and feels just real enough to be terrifyingly possible. I do prefer Order over Legacy in that it doesn’t have the ‘modern day’ / pre-Silo points of view. I find it more interesting to get hints of that world from after the fall, rather than having everything spelled out.
Leviathans of Jupiter takes what made Jupiter so enjoyable (the exploration of the oceans of Jupiter and interactions with the creatures that live there) and takes another visit. This time around, we have even more content from the Leviathan’s perspective and first attempts at actually communicating with them, which is pretty cool.
While the science is cool, the characters and drama isn’t quite as strong as Jupiter. Grant Archer is still around and in charge now, which is an interesting point. We also get more of Dorn, finding his way out after the Asteroid War. He’s been through quite a lot and it’s interesting seeing his point of view, especially since he’s fairly unique in this universe in being a cyborg.
It’s been a while since I read Wool. Long enough that I’d started to forget the general shape of things, but as I went through First Shift: Legacy, things started to come back. It’s interesting seeing the gaps in Wool’s history.
That being said, the prequel chapters (of a prequel) just feel wrong. The Silos were built in a matter of years by the government? With apparently minimal or no leaks? Run by a Senator which apparently gets two Representatives to do his absolute bidding (What about their own jobs? It would have made more sense had Donald remained an architect).
And so it ends. Where A Gathering of Shadows was the bright(ish) interlude, A Conjuring of Light goes dark quick. The magic that killed Black London is free in Red London and trying it’s damnedest to … take over the world? It’s a little unclear. I guess a piece of sentient magic gets a pass on the ‘evil for the sake of being evil’ card.
Characterwise, we don’t really have anyone know, although we get a lot more of Rhy who actually gets to explore being given a literal second chance at life and what it means to be king. Speaking of which, King Maxim and Queen Emira had a lot going for them. I … just wish they were developed a bit more. Rhy’s relationship with Alucard gets a fair bit more time. It’s complicated (in a good way) and well done. I wish them the best.
Saturn was something of a bummer, especially coming off Jupiter and the Asteroid Wars, The Aftermath in particular. It might as well have been called ‘adventures of a colony ship’, since it’s only in the last fraction of the book that we actually make it to Saturn. The rest of the book is spent by power hungry religious zealots trying to take over a ship ostensibly populated by ten thousand people trying to escape exactly that sort of behavior.
On top of that, I don’t really care about any of the characters. They’re all either cartoonishly evil or inept or scientists that need concepts they should know cold explained to them. It’s kind of a bummer also that the main character went through the cryogenic freeze/thaw that we’ve seen discussed in other books, leaving her having to rebuild her life from scratch. But it really doesn’t actually go anywhere. A missed opportunity.