If you got to the end of Aldebaran and felt disappointed that so many loose ends remained to the story, you won’t struggle with this final volume of Betelgeuse, which finally wraps up both series. All mysteries are explained, all relationships resolved, and the characters get closure on most of their issues. We’re not going to spoil it by going into detail – part of the fun of this entire series, particularly the latter Betelgeuse half, is that the reader is on the same journey of exploration and discovery as the characters.
The closure doesn’t feel completely perfect. There are small elements that feel like they’ve been skirted around, and others that, in retrospect, throw up a number of further questions. However, it’s little details that remain unanswered, while the big picture is resolved.
One of the strengths of the series has turned out to be its female lead, Kim. Starting the book as a fawning teenager she matures through the series. This final book shows her surpassing those who’ve helped and hindered her over the years, as she flowers into a determined, capable and compassionate leader. In a series where we’ve often complained that the characters appear overly stiff and wooden, she’s a beacon of character development. However, most of the remaining characters seem to have little about them beyond a cheerful disposition or an unrequited crush on Kim, making this a long way from a three-dimensional character-driven piece.
As we’ve mentioned in previous reviews however, the story is really about the flora and fauna of alien planets, and humanity’s unerring ability to conquer and destroy indigenous populations without much of a thought for anyone or anything else.
On this level it works very well. The over-arching story may not have lived up to its very early promise but it’s still been a fascinating journey. LEO’s created an incredible and coherent vision of how life might have developed and evolved on alien planets similar, but subtely different, to our own. It’s worth it for this alone but could perhaps have been in contention for five-stars across the board if its plot and characterisation had been as successful as LEO’s extraordinary extra-terrestrial biology.