The Forbidden Stars (Book III of the Axiom), by Tim Pratt (Angry Robot)
It’s always a risk to jump into a series or a multi-volume story, like this one, and in general I don’t recommend it. It takes great skill on the author’s part to bring a new reader up to speed without boring those who already know the backstory. When I asked for a review copy of The Forbidden Stars, I assumed it was a direct sequel to The Wrong Stars. Wrong (excuse the pun) book, though. However, since I loved The Wrong Stars, I decided to take a chance. After a little coming-up-to-speed, I found myself immersed in the plot, getting re-acquainted with my favorite characters, and thoroughly enjoying the tale.
Having expanded across the galaxy, humanity considers its future bright. Sure, there are occasional territorial clashes, and aliens called Liars because of their obsessive duplicity. But when, in the first book, Captain Callie Machedo and her crew discover an artifact of an unknown, possibly extinct or unimaginably ancient alien race, the Liars react with horror. Humans are now on the brink of making contact with the long-dormant, genocidal race, the Axiom. The Axiom’s reaction when it contacts another sapient race is to destroy it, and they have technology beyond anything humans have achieved to do it. There is nowhere in the galaxy beyond their reach, and no species has ever survived first contact, except the Liars, their client race.
Now, in the third book, Callie and her crew, aided by their mysterious client, the Benefactor, are determined to bring the battle to the Axiom.
And we get to go along for the ride.
What a ride it is, full of plots and schemes and danger, and most of all, the resourcefulness and devious craft of our heroes. It’s such a joy to have a highly competent, terrifyingly intelligent protagonist as Callie. I kept expecting her bravado to land her in a mess over her head, but that didn’t happen. The result was no less dramatic but endlessly fascinating.
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