If you followed Grovel‘s The Worlds of Aldebaran reviews, you’ll know what to expect from Antares. If you haven’t, go back and start with Aldebaran 1: The Catastrophe. Although Antares is the start of a new story arc on a new planet, it carries a lot of baggage from the previous series and shouldn’t be tackled by newcomers.
Antares is the third and latest earth-like planet to be colonised by humans. As we join the story, the first three explorers have arrived and are checking out the local flora and fauna, to ensure it’s safe for colonists. Unfortunately, in true Aldebaran style, the planet is crammed with mysterious, strange-looking and thoroughly lethal creatures.
The problem is that colonisation missions are expensive, and this one has been privately funded. The company that sent the manned probe doesn’t really want to know about the horror, as it’ll never recoup its costs unless it can follow the mission up with a successful colony.
At this point, the Earth-bound management team decide they want to bring in Kim Keller, the heroine from Aldebaran and Betelgeuse. She has successfully survived the two previous troublesome colonisations against tough odds, and also comes with a healthy dose of positive PR. Trouble is, a few years have passed since the Betelgeuse mission and Kim has become something of a recluse. How will she be persuaded to join the expedition?
Leo starts the book with a good pace. Antares is as beautifully designed as Betelgeuse, with a solid ecosystem of fantastic and brutal creatures. The introduction of new characters provide you with a real sense of risk: it’s not really a question of whether people are going to die horrible, grizzly deaths, but when.
Juxtaposed alongside the trio’s problems are Kim’s, as she’s reunited with her friends but has her own issues to deal with. The balance of this familiarity with the planet’s unknown but predictable horror is honed with skill.
The illustration suffers from Leo’s usual triumphs and flaws. His world building is amazing, from the landscape to the creatures, and the vehicles to the architecture. His people still look stiff to my eye, but perhaps they’re just supposed to be fine, straight-backed specimins.
To a very real extent though, this takes us straight back to the exciting feeling we got with the first book, which offered a grand mystery, a question of survival, and the fantastical journey of interplanetary discovery. It’s a thrilling ride, and is bound to make you desperate to know what inventive dangers lurk around the corner for humanity’s latest extra-terrestrial colonists.