This book starts a few years after the last one and despite the jump forward in time the planet Mars remains a stalemate between the human and Lanky forces. Humanity has established control of the skies above Mars but no matter how many Lankies are killed there always seems to be more of them. The human forces on Mars are wearing down every day as both ships and personnel are succumbing to battle fatigue and Andrew Grayson knows that humanity will not win this war of attrition. We continually rush new recruits into service aboard ships that are well past their prime but eventually the Lankies will get reinforcements and the house of cards will come tumbling down. This is unless we find a way to change the game...
Peter F. Hamilton offers up a different perspective on human colonization of space this time around and instead of unbridled success expansion quickly becomes financially non-viable after the first wave of colony planets are established. With the companies behind the initial expansion going heavily into debt a new form of corporate terrorism begins to arise. Financially failing colonies are purchased by investors on Earth who then send military forces there to conduct "asset realization" missions where they take by force anything that will have value back on Earth. This is a completely legal thing to do from an Earth based perspective but the colony inhabitants don't take too kindly to these "invading" forces and it is one such asset realization mission that acts as the main backdrop for the story of Fallen Dragon.
The Road to the Goberlings is a ship of secrets. Its Captain, Hammond Royston apparently knows something about a lost planet of riches. Josune Arriola is posing as a junior engineer to keep an eye on Royston until her ship, the Hassim can intercept them. Nika Rik Terri, the famous body modder, is trying to escape an assassin, the powerful corporation that employs him, and her abusive ex-boyfriend who got her into this mess. One peaceful cargo ship is suddenly at the top of the galaxy's most wanted list and on the run for their lives.
As he did in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson once again constructs a bizarre dystopian world composed of an eclectic combination of future technologies and ancient traditions and uses it as the backdrop to tell a unique story. At its core this is a coming of age tale about a young girl named Nell who comes to possess a very special book known as the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. This book is an engineering marvel that is fully interactive and capable of customizing itself to match its reader in order to prepare them for the challenges they will face on their journey to adulthood. In Nell's case the book ultimately winds up raising her in place of her parents and it enables her to survive amid the chaos that eventually comes her way from the unpredictable society around her.
Nell has a deep connection to her land, Soulwood. It was simply a green thumb until she was threatened and drew blood on her land for the first time. The forest wanted that blood and with her permission absorbed the life it was offered. Now Soulwood is aware and shares that awareness with Nell. Because of her unique affinity for the land Nell is asked to assist PsyLED, the federal agency tasked with policing supernaturals. She doesn't trust the government but she needs their protection so she agrees to help them find some kidnapped girls. Unfortunately, the investigation leads Nell to the polygamist church she grew up in and forces her to deal with some painful truths.
The Extinction Cycle series picks back up as the fight against the Juveniles heads over to Europe. Kryptonite did its job against the Variants but the Juveniles are growing up now and they are much worse. Luckily in the U.S. most of the major cities have been reclaimed and there are now Safe Zones being established where refugees are gathering to start to rebuilding process; however, Europe is a different story. Over there the Juvenile threat was not dealt with when they were still young and now they have grown into something far worse than their US counterparts. That's bad news for everyone.
At the end of the last book, Plum Island was attacked and the Variants captured Dr. Lovato thus putting humanity's last hope in jeopardy. Kate was working on a new Variant killing weapon, Kryptonite, and Plum Island was the key to that weapon being ready on time. Of course Master Sergeant Reed Beckham is not going to stand around while the woman he loves is taken to her death by a bunch of mutants so this book starts off right in the action with a rescue mission that is a race against time.
The number of humans left alive continues to drop at an alarming rate and there isn't much time left. It has only been a few weeks since the apocalypse began and so far all efforts to slow it down have failed. The Variants control all of the major cities and Central Command is being moved to the last remaining Naval strike group as no place on the mainland remains safe. Does that even matter now that it is obvious that the military leadership can't be trusted? Team Ghost knows that they will pay for their actions at the end of the last book and all they can do at this point is to protect Dr Lovato at all costs. She is the only hope there is of coming up with a solution before it is too late and nothing can be allowed to happen to her. At least things can't actually get any worse at this point can they? Actually, yes they can...
Mankind has experienced many ages over the years, but few could have predicted the age that would come next. As the Industrial Age gave way to the Information Age the possibilities for advancement were endless but out of nowhere the Extinction Age was upon us. With the human population falling at an alarming rate humanity has only a handful of weeks remaining before going extinct unless something is done to change the trajectory. With Operation Liberty a failure it is now obvious that the military is not the answer so all eyes return to Dr. Kate Lovato in the hope that science can offer up an answer before it is too late. To make matters worse, resupply from central command is not possible so there may not even be enough food to sustain Kate and her team for the little time that remains.
By the end of book one it was revealed that Dr. Kate Lovato's bio weapon, which she designed to destroy the zombie hordes, was quite effective, but also not effective enough. Doing the math we know that 80% of the human race had turned into flesh craving zombies before her weapon was deployed, and that her weapon killed billions of them, but it also left behind a resistant strain of Variants. The real question is, how many Variants are there and what are they capable of? Do they number in the thousands or the millions? Can this new threat of intelligent, agile Variants be contained or is it actually a bigger problem than the billions of mindless zombies that were wiped out?