We’ve always maintained that the best thing about Leo’s Worlds of Aldebaran series has been the spirit of exploration, and how his characters react to the discovery of new and often extremely deadly forms of flora and fauna.
This means it’s a bit of a shame that the first half of Antares: Episode 2 is spent with the main characters stuck on a space ship with a bunch of idiotic bigots. Kim, her daughter Lynn and their companion Mai Lan, have been persuaded to join a colonisation ship by the dubious corporation trying to make money from Antares. But there are darker motives than capitalism at play, with a significant number of the colonists coming out as members of a right-wing religious cult. Their answer to seeing Mai Lan wandering through the corridor on her way back from the shower, wearing only a skimpy towel, is to rape her to “give her a lesson.” It’s a cruel echo of the fascist regime of Aldebaran, in the first series of books.
In the second half of the book, the colonists arrive on Antares and we get to see a bit more of the planet and its strange creatures. However, the dangers of the situation haven’t been properly explained to the new colonists, and what remains of the advance party have a few horror stories to tell.
Middle book syndrome strikes again here. Leo is bedding the story down for the final instalment. The space travel wasn’t completely wasted, setting up the unpleasant cultists as a force to be reckoned with in the final stages, and the figures of authority as characters of dubious moral substance. But without alien plants and creatures, it just doesn’t play to his strengths.
Be warned though, there’s the mother of all cliff-hangers at the end of this book. Read it and you’ll have no choice but to sign yourself up for Episode 3.