This book grabs you right from the prologue as Joe Ledger asks a series of questions, including: Where were you when the lights went out? That's the question isn't it? Where you suddenly reminded that civilization and the comfort of infrastructure is just a garment that we wear? Did the sudden dark remind you that all of the things that we expect to be there for us are fleeting? You were absolutely sure someone was going to come and fix it right? Then there was a moment when you realized that the lights weren't coming back on, that maybe they wouldn't, that maybe they couldn't...
Django Wexler is a strong new voice in military based fantasy, The Thousand Names follows the story of two very different soldiers facing impossible odds under an eccentric new commander. Captain Marcus d'Ivoire was the senior-most surviving officer after a bloody rebellion forces the Colonial Army into retreat. As a common born graduate of the War College he never imagined being in charge of a regiment so he's relieved that the Royal Army is sending a colonel to take charge. Winter Ihernglass is a Ranker, one of the rank and file. Most of the Colonials were sent there because they were an embarrassment or did something criminal but Winter wanted to go where no one would ask questions because "he" is a "she".
Never forget that when Stephen R. Donaldson is the man doing the writing that there is no end to the misery that the universe will dump onto the main characters. It is no surprise when fate (aka Donaldson) conspires to back all three of his main protagonists into a corner at the same location in Forbidden Space, a little outpost known as Billingate. This illegal outpost, where human pirates and Amnion conduct dark dealings, becomes the backdrop for the convergence of Angus, Nick, and Morn and all the vitriol they carry for each other. It is not mere coincidence that this happens because two of the most powerful men in existence, Holt Fasner, head of the United Mining Company, and Warden Dios, head of the UMCP, are plotting against each other and using Morn, Angus, and Nick as unwilling pawns in their struggle.
Throughout the first two books of this series, the Edeard story line (from inside the Void) seemed to overshadow the far more numerous threads related to events happening outside the Void. Edeard's life in Makkathran was just more interesting and the growth of his psychic powers kept things fresh as he pursued his quest to achieve fulfillment. As his story line progressed it also provided much needed context to explain why the human Living Dream movement was willing to put the entire galaxy at risk with their pilgrimage into the Void. Despite numerous factions and alien species willing to go "all in" to stop them, Living Dream was prepared to do anything for a chance to achieve fulfillment. Would their pilgrimage trigger a Void expansion phase so large that the galaxy was consumed? Would anyone be able to stop them before they got there? With the stage finally set Peter F. Hamilton answers those questions and more as he concludes the series and unveils the mystery of the Void once and for all.
Some lose threads from book #3, The King of Plagues, get pulled on and things start to unravel for Joe Ledger and the DMS. It was uncovered back then that the Seven Kings had a list of all DMS members and their families, which was one of the main reasons that taking them out became so urgent. Once the Kings were all neutralized it seemed like the risk to the DMS families was eliminated but this turns out not to be true. With Joe and Rudy in attendance to watch the Orioles play the Phillies on opening day a terrorist attack targets not just the innocent baseball fans in attendance but the DMS agents in particular. The remnants of the Seven Kings are back and this time they are making it personal.
In the afterword of book 1, author Stephen R. Donaldson commented that he wrote the novella because he wanted to take the classic character triangle of hero, victim, and villain and have his characters switch roles as the story progressed. For book 2, apparently he decided that everyone should be both a victim and a villain and to hell with anyone being a hero. This book picks up right after the events of The Real Story and continues to follow all three lead characters: Morn Hyland, Nick Succorso, and Angus Thermopylae. Angus is in custody for a crime he didn't commit and undergoing torture at the hands of the UMCP. Morn has essentially gone from being a captive on Angus' ship to being a captive on Nick's ship but this time she possesses the control for her zone implant, which she must keep secret at all costs. And finally, Nick Succorso shows his true colors and begins to unveil his evil plans for profiting from Morn's situation.
The mystery of the void at the center of the galaxy, as introduced in The Dreaming Void, makes the perfect center piece around which to tell a complex story. Peter F. Hamilton starts to converge his various story lines from book one as he elevates the stakes across the board. The Living Dream religious movement is convinced that their planned Pilgrimage into the void holds the key to their fulfillment and they are desperate to find the "second dreamer" who will lead them to their promised land. Certain factions within the ANA:Governance continue to supply advanced technology to the Pilgrimage in exchange for coming along, yet their motives for doing so remain unknown. At the same time an alien armada is heading toward human space hell bent on stopping the Pilgrimage at any cost, convinced that if the Pilgrimage reaches the void then the galaxy will be consumed. Times are desperate as the Commonwealth Navy has failed in every attempt to stop the armada and is now considering activating the Deterrence Fleet, which is their mysterious weapon of last resort. And the key to all of this, the second dreamer, remains in hiding wanting nothing to do with Living Dream or their rediculous Pilgrimage.
The term Code Zero was coined in the first Joe Ledger book, Patient Zero, to indicate a threat composed of the Seif-al-Din virus, which if released would inflict a zombie plague upon the world. This book is pretty much a sequel to that first book with a smattering of threats from the other books thrown in for good measure. Over the course of the first five books of the series Joe Ledger and the DMS have turned aside one threat after another (designer plagues, pathogens, engineered viruses, etc) and they have been locking away samples of these threats in their most secure facility. Very few people even know these things exist and all of these secrets are closely guarded for good reason. However, this time around the threat comes from within the DMS itself and that makes it hard for Joe Ledger and Echo team to get the job done as they are unaware they have been betrayed...
The Intersolar Commonwealth of mankind has spread across thousands of stars but humanity is no more united in 3058 AD than it was when it existed on a single planet. Multiple factions with wildly different agendas vie to advance their beliefs in their own unique ways. One of those factions, the Living Dream movement, is planning something that could impact every species in the galaxy - a Pilgrimage to the Void. The Void lies at the center of the galaxy, and according to the Raiel, the oldest and most advanced species known to man, it is a destructive force that expands from time to time destroying everything in its wake. The Raiel dread the next expansion phase and they know that not even the might of their technology can do anything to stop it. They do not want Living Dream to tempt fate with their Pilgrimage and they are not alone in that belief.
Counter-terrorism has been a consistent theme over the first four books of this series but that doesn't mean the stories have been repetitive. Joe Ledger and the DMS have actually faced quite a variety of adversaries so far, including zombies, super soldiers, and vampires. In each case there has been a scientific rationale to explain the existence of these seemingly supernatural creatures thus Joe Ledger has learned the hard way that he must keep an open mind if he wants to stay alive. However, all of those lessons don't seem to help much as he begins to uncover the facts in his latest case. It all starts with an impossibility - the President of the United States is abducted from the White House and not a single secret service agent saw anything. The only piece of evidence left behind is a crop circle on the White House lawn but that has to be a hoax. Right?