With the second book this series gets more serious, more entertaining, and just plain better. Since this series is a fairly unique blend of both fantasy and sci-fi its great to see both aspects gaining more depth. Galactic politics come into play as Dina is asked to host a peace conference for three factions fighting over a single unique planet. The first faction are the vampires of the Holy Anocracy and one of the attendees is Lord Arland who she met in Clean Sweep. She is also familiar with the Merchant Nuan Cee and his clan of the Lees. The third faction is the Hope Crushing Horde of the Otrokars who have often clashed with the vampires as the two empires are both aggressive and expansive. The last time an Arbitrator tried to broker peace between the Otrakars and the Vampires it ended in disaster and blood. But in addition to the boost Gertrude Hunt, the Inn, would get from forty guests staying several days the Arbitrator offers a large paycheck that Dina desperately needs. According to the Treaty visitors to Earth must not reveal themselves to humans and the primary responsibility of the Innkeeper is to keep their guests safe. Dina is about to have a really bad week.
When Bob Johansson signed the contract to cryogenically freeze his head after death he never imagined the future that he would wake up to; however, he knew it had to be better than being dead. Now he is learning whether or not that is actually true. Things on Earth have gone from bad to worse in the 117 years since he died in a car accident and now Bob is awoken to a world that is a geo-political mess. The disappointment continues when he learns that he is no longer actually a human but rather a computer AI that happens to retain all of his human memories. No longer in control of his own destiny he is told that his consciousness will be placed into a space probe and launched into space in search of a new home for humanity. To a sci-fi geek like Bob that is kind of cool, but when a rival faction attacks the project facility he is launched on his mission before his training is even complete. He now needs to take on the universe alone, making it all up as he goes along...
All the freshwater on Earth is gone. Now the alien invaders are working on the oceans and they are down to about half their volume. If humanity is going to fight back, then the time is now. In the last book, the Cheyenne Mountain biosphere team proved that their new weapon was capable of disabling the alien shields so they shared that technology with the Ghosts of Atlantis, the last remaining military submarine. Now they have discovered a potential new alien vulnerability which could allow an attack to disable all of the aliens planetwide. They shared this knowledge with the GoA as well and Captain Noble has decided it is worth the risk to launch such an attack. While his team works on a longer range version of the weapon to make this possible Noble notices that biosphere goes dark. He must now decide between his attack plan and investigating what happened to the scientists who made it all possible - the scientists he promised to protect.
Gertrude Hunt is a Bed & Breakfast Inn where the guests are out of this world. Literally. Local Earth space has an amazingly high number of warp points which almost led to an interstellar war for possession of the planet back when humans were still making war with swords and arrows. Even though humans were completely unaware of galactic civilizations it was still decided to declare Earth neutral territory and the Inns were established, which also happen to be sentient beings themselves. The rules are simple: any violent acts by a guest is cause for a lifetime ban from the Inns and attracting any attention from humans will result in a species wide ban depending on the severity of the incident.
Dr. Sophie Winston and her small band of survivors now understand how dire their circumstances are, but unfortunately they are not aligned on how best to move forward. The aliens have already removed all of the fresh water from the planet and now they are working on the oceans where they are sucking the water into the toward their orbiting ships. Back on land the aliens have set up a number of "human farms" where they mount people onto poles and slowly drain the water from their bodies. The human farm that has been discovered in Colorado Springs has Sgt Overton adamant about mounting a rescue mission to save as many people as possible but Sophie believes that such a mission would put them all at risk and she refuses to authorize it. The strain of this disagreement has them both at their breaking points.
In the year 2055 an unprecedented series of solar storms results in a coronal mass ejection (CME) that bombards the Earth with radiation and renders many locations uninhabitable. This cataclysm motivates the governments of the world to start collaborating on a joint project to start to populate another world - Mars. New Tech Corporation (NTC) becomes responsible for getting humans to the red planet and they are hiring the best scientists in the world to make it happen. Their sense of urgency in this endeavor is off the charts and that is because they know something that most people on Earth don't - the CME of 2055 was not a random event.
Roy Hammond and the crazy crew from the Road to the Goberlings are back in a new ship, Another Road. When last we saw these probable descendants of MacGyver, Nika had just killed a corporate assassin but the Eaglehawk executive Wickmore managed to escape the bomb and was still hunting her. Now they are dodging a mercenary ship sent by Wickmore as well as agents of the Justice Department that want Nika for their own reasons. Meanwhile Nika is working to keep Roy alive as his body struggles with the integration of his immortality and returning memory. All roads lead to the dangerous planet Zell, caught between two bazaar and deadly cosmic forces, where a mining colony has encountered the first sentient aliens....and the trail of Goberling's legendary find from the first book. As usual the crew are dodging missiles and corporate politics as various members are captured, rescued, and lost in space in this future universe driven by greed and vanity.
The latest interstellar war has been a back and forth affair so far, but an advancement in technology on the human side of the equation offers up a unique opportunity. So far the enemy has had the tech advantage due to their faster-than-light (FTL) communications, which allows them to react much faster than the humans or tadpoles, but now FTL travel without a tramline is becoming a reality. This means that ships will no longer need to take a predictable path from one star system to another and humanity can strike directly at the home world of the enemy. There is a catch though: it is a one way trip, which means it is a win or die mission for every ship involved.
Ark Royal book 8 picks up right after the events of book 7, Vanguard. The first engagement of the war is now over and both Susan Onarina and Georgina Fitzwilliam find themselves in very different situations based on their decisions during that conflict. Vanguard barely survived to make it home under Susan's leadership and upon return to Earth she finds herself taken into custody for relieving Vanguard's former commander. Although she is quite certain that he was unfit for duty, Susan knew at the time that taking such a drastic step would have consequences and now is the time to find out just what those consequences are. On the other hand, Georgina is now in the uncomfortable role of being first middy in charge of four new midshipmen and she is not certain that she is ready for this new responsibility.
Each trilogy within the larger Ark Royal series centers around a single ship and an associated alien contact story line. The initial trilogy featured an outdated carrier class ship, Ark Royal, and first contact with the race that became known as the tadpoles, which led to an interstellar war. The second trilogy featured a heavy cruiser class ship, Warspite, and first contact with the planet Vesy that contains a reptilian race not as technologically advanced as humanity. The Warspite trilogy had us fighting amongst ourselves and it just wasn't as good as the original. This third series features the first ship from a new class of battleship, Vanguard, and another story of interstellar war that hopes to recapture the glory of the initial series. Does it work?