All the main characters are back (at least the ones that are still alive) and Peter V. Brett finally brings his epic story to a conclusion. Sharak Ka is nigh and it is time to find out if humanity has what it takes to survive the threat. Despite the many advances in warding skills and demon fighting techniques that have occurred since the series started, mankind still remains ill prepared for what is coming. The Krasians and Thesans must put aside their differences if they are to survive until dawn. Whether you believe in the Creator, Everam, or neither, it matters not as the demons are ready to swarm and every living person must do their part or be prepared to walk the lonely path.
In 2088 Earth decides to send out twelve deep space missions. Reggie Straifer proposes that they visit an anomalous star that appears to have some kind of shell blocking the light emitting from it. When his proposal is accepted and becomes one of the twelve missions he chooses the name Noumenon, a posited object or event that exists without sense or perception. Nine ships, populated by genetic clones, travel for two hundred years to get to the star while back on Earth two thousand years pass by. The story is told in first person vignettes at crucial timepoints.
Despite being only two books in length the Commonwealth Saga manages to deliver an epic science fiction story from the mind of author Peter F. Hamilton. The first book, Pandora's Star, is aptly named as it sets the stage by telling the tale of how humanity lets curiosity unleash a threat upon the galaxy that it is in no way prepared to handle. Multi-century lifespans and instant wormhole travel between stars has made humanity overly complacent and easy prey for the Prime aliens who are ruthless, aggressive, and without mercy. Survival of the fittest may have served us well in the distant past but now it is time to find out if we are able to channel our inner predator or if we finally become prey to someone else.
This work originally started as an online journal where each entry was uploaded piece by piece and appeared as if it was hand written by the protagonist as he tried to survive a zombie apocalypse. It was published in this unconventional way because J. L Bourne wanted it to feel real and raw and was quoted as saying "there are no publishers or editors in the apocalypse." Eventually this unique work was compiled and morphed into book form but the journal entry format remained in tact which is a good thing since it happens to keep the story moving forward rapidly. Couple that with the credibility that Bourne's 22 years of military and intelligence service brings to his main character, who is also military, and you have a unique work worth experiencing within a very crowded genre.
Fuzzy Nation is a modern take on the classic tale of a large corporation exploiting natural resources for profit, destroying the environment in the process, and then running into an environmental snag. In this case the exploitation happens to be occurring on a distant planet and the snag is the discovery of a new life form that mucks up the works. Because these new creatures are small and furry they are given the name "Fuzzies" and the bulk of this story is the ensuing legal battle between scientists and lawyers over whether or not the Fuzzies are sapient. Of course if they are deemed sapient then interplanetary law dictates that the corporation must stop exploiting their home world and leave it to them, so vast sums of money are at stake on the outcome. Don't be fooled into thinking that a legal battle must be boring as John Scalzi injects his usual amount of humor into the tale and makes this a fun short story that doesn't outstay its welcome.
Pandora's Star is the book where Peter F. Hamilton first introduces readers to the human Commonwealth. It is the year 2380 and humanity has populated several hundred worlds across hundreds of light years, all due to wormhole technology. That is when a single astronomer observes something unexplainable about 1000 light years from Earth - two stars just disappear when they become simultaneously enclosed by some kind of structure. This sparks all kinds of debate within the Commonwealth as whoever did this must have technology far superior to humanity and could pose a serious threat to the Commonwealth despite the distance. What to do about it? Sit back and do nothing hoping to avoid detection by these superior aliens or attempt to find a way to traverse the massive distance to take a closer look? Neither option is a great one and the Commonwealth's ultimate decision makes up the core of this interesting story.
This time around Edward W. Robertson moves his story arc forward right from the start but he does it by mixing the old with the new as Walt returns to being a main character. There are two main story lines once again with Walt, who we know from Breakers, as the central figure of one and Raina, who was just a child when human civilization fell, as the central character of the other. Right from the start these two story lines offer different perspectives on the state of the Los Angeles basin as human factions vie for control of the area. If you haven't started the series and want to avoid any spoilers that reveal plot points from the prior books then you should stop reading now but know that this book is probably the best of the Breakers series to date because the story arc is finally moving forward, although things don't appear to going well for anyone.
I expected book 2 of this series to pick up where things left off at the end of book 1, Breakers, but to my surprise that is not the case. Instead, Edward W. Robertson decides to start this book in the exact same place that he started the last one - prior to the pending double apocalypse. He also once again chooses to focus on two different sets of characters as they navigate the treacherous waters ahead of them when disaster strikes. This time around both sets of characters are siblings but they start from different socio-economic classes and thus very different circumstances. Ness and Sean are brothers that live with their mother in a trailer in Idaho, which is one of the many ground zero locations for the upcoming outbreak, while Tristan and Alden live with their wealthy parents in Redding, California. Their worlds may start out quite different but the end of civilization as we know it will cause them all to wind up in a very similar place.
Two different couples, one on each coast of the United States, struggle with the typical challenges of modern life. In New York, Walt is happy in his relationship with Vanessa, but he knows that she is planning to dump him because he found a goodbye note when rummaging through her dresser. He is pretty sure that she is cheating on him with one of her fellow actors and he starts scheming ways to keep the relationship going just a bit longer. On the west coast, Raymond and Mia are madly in love but are flat broke and about to lose their home. Raymond is a screw up who can't seem to keep a job and things go from bad to worse as he loses the last of his savings when he tries to make a quick buck. All of these challenges are about to become meaningless as the outbreak from the Outcome novella hits and the world is changed forever.
Ellie Colson has analyzed the data and sees what should be obvious to all of her colleagues - this is no ordinary flu. The rate of infection is scary high and the survival rate is negligible which means this new virus is like nothing we have ever seen before. Her bosses believe the disease will burn itself out quickly because so few survive the infection but Ellie is not convinced. She decides to commit career suicide, and possibly real suicide as well, by walking out on her job and boarding a plane to New York City. She wants to warn her ex-fiance, Chip, and get him to a safe place before it is too late but it is a race against the clock that she is not likely to win.