I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, Ascending – see my review, so was delighted when I heard that the next book was now available. Would it continue the quality of the first instalment? I will be adding this review to the Sci Fi Month 2019 Challenge.
BLURB: Linguist Avery Alcott has spent three months proving herself to her Vardeshi companions and earning their respect. She arrives at Arkhati, the space station halfway between Earth and Vardesh Prime, eager to continue her adventure. But the next stage of her mission brings its own challenges. In the months to come, new alliances and old friendships will be tested. Avery will question her purpose and her place among the Vardeshi, and she will discover that the most memorable journeys are the ones we can’t predict.
I read this one on a train journey and was fully engrossed to the extent that it was a relief that I wasn’t getting off before the train terminated – because I would have been at risk of missing my station. Avery isn’t a brilliant fighter and she is often far too self-effacing. She is stubbornly loyal, to the point where she is blind to the wider picture and given that she is part of an extended first-contact exchange visit, this isn’t just a quirky cuteness – it’s a major failing. And yet… I absolutely love her. She is also courageous and while she might not possess much in the way of kickass ninja fighting skills, she is physically tough and reasonably resilient.
The supporting characters are also well done. I particularly liked Avery’s interaction with Fletcher Simon, the language genius, who has eclipsed her own ability in picking up the Vardeshi dialects and we also get to meet up again with the likes of Zey and Hathan, the aliens serving on the disgraced ship, who are desperate to clear their reputations after the events that occurred during the first book.
I enjoyed the way that Pechenick isn’t focusing on big space battles or nasty invasions, but the ongoing wear and tear of being immersed in a culture in which you don’t belong and where you don’t instinctively understand the people around you – because they are aliens. The fact that in many ways they look very much like us only adds to the disconnect. All in all, this is a fascinating continuation of a really interesting series. I am now eagerly awaiting the third book.
Once again, Pechenick manages to keep this intriguing first contact adventure grittily realistic in attention to the details of food preparation, though it is a lot easier now as the scientific teams in the background have now cleared more of the alien foodstuffs as safe for human consumption. I love how there are many similarities – but it’s the jarring differences that can catch her out. Pechenick is also very good at serving up sudden twists and surprises in the storyline that ramps up the stakes and the narrative tension – I really didn’t want to put this one down.
There is a developing romantic sub-plot which is well handled and I enjoyed, though Himself was a bit grumpy about it, as he preferred the story without the mushy stuff. The thing that I liked about it – is there is no mushy stuff. It felt a very grown-up relationship and while there were no cliffhangers, I honestly don’t know whether this is a relationship that will be able to continue. Highly recommended for space opera fans who enjoy intelligent, character-led stories.