The middle book of a trilogy serves an interesting purpose. Neither launching or concluding a story, its job is to keep things going, perhaps explaining a few things on the way and maybe adding a bit more drama to the proceedings. This second of three Aldebaran books does just that, moving the story on a few years, resolving some of the last book’s personal issues, and sorting out the cliff-hanger we were left with. On this latter issue we were a smidgen disappointed – what seemed like lost hope was whitewashed within the first few pages, though it admittedly served a secondary purpose of adding some extra depth to one of the books’ more irritating archetypical characters.
Initial disappointments aside, however, by the time you hit the second half of this book you’ll be intrigued and hooked all over again. There’s some explanation of who the mysterious people we met in the first book are, where they came from and what they’re up to. Like all good mysteries however, these mid-section revelations seem to throw up more questions than they answer.
We also see more of the colonists’ ruling dictatorship, a hybrid of right-wing religious and military types. In the background we start to see their motives shine through, as posters around the capital city instruct women that it’s their duty to bear at least 10 children to keep the colony alive, and that 17 years old is the best time to start on the road to motherhood. Even female prisoners are inseminated, whether they like it or not. It’s an eerie, domineering and ultimately fascist sort of a government, which does little to endear the reader, or indeed its own subjects, to its survivalist cause.
There remains a certain stiltedness to the character illustration and occasionally the dialogue. But the story is rich, complex and mysterious, providing extraordinary fantasy that drags the reader along in the wake of its deep imagination.
This holds the book up nicely. If you didn’t enjoy the first book there’s little point going on as it’s largely more of the same. This is good news for fans like me though – I’m finding the gargantuan mystery that I hope will be revealed in the third book a pleasure to explore. This is bold, intelligent science fiction that deserves a wider audience.
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