Hamilton has created a human-centric universe called the Commonwealth within several books that I have not read. Apparently, the Commonwealth is just about perfect. Everyone enjoys perfect health with life extending treatments. Everyone can learn anything they please and all races live in harmony. In the previous book, “The Abyss Beyond Dreams”, the Commonwealth becomes aware of a construct they dub the Void which seems to trap ships and is expanding. A partnership with the Raiel is created with the intent of destroying the Void. Nigel sends a clone to discover what happened to the humans trapped within the void. Since time passes differently, Nigel discovers 3000 years have passed and the humans have forgotten the Commonwealth and are living in a feudal-type society. He precipitates a revolution and then attempts to destroy the Void. His efforts appeared to have destroyed the human’s world and Void disappeared.
This story picks up 150 years later. The human planet, Bienvenido, was not destroyed as Nigel believed but expelled by the Void some millions of light-years from the Commonwealth. The humans are still waging a constant war against the Fallers using the technology that Laura Brandt was able to leave with them before she died. The Fallers are a nasty sort that either eat or replicate humans. They have been attempting to infiltrate the human population. The people are told that the regular spaceflights to destroy the Ring Trees, the source of Faller eggs, is progressing well and the trees should be completely destroyed within another hundred years. The military are making sure that no Faller eggs survive and all are relatively safe. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Since the expulsion from the Void, the humans have lost their enhanced abilities and now find themselves in conflict with those who have genetically inherited traits from their Commonwealth ancestors. Those who still have the ability to link with each other for communication and have perfect memories are called Eliters and have been relegated to second-class citizens status. They have little to say about how they are governed but they know more than the average human about how their leadership is lying to them. The Commonwealth is no more than a legend since it is highly unlikely that anyone in the Commonwealth will ever know what happened to Bienvenido and no one is coming to their rescue.
Everything changes when a normal space flight to destroy a Tree goes a little awry. The pilot, Ry Ervin, sees a UFO but is instructed by his government to disregard it and is forbidden to speak of it. But Ry is obsessed with the object and determines to find it and discover for himself just what it is.
Florian is a wildlife warden and an Eliter. He prefers solitude and is out rustling a sheep one night when he sees the UFO land. Surprisingly, the UFO contacts him on his Eliter link and pleads for assistance. When he arrives at the crash site, the vehicle hands him a baby and instructs him to care for her for a month. The implication is that she will be the salvation for Bienvenido…if he can keep her alive and away from both the government and the Fallers. The baby is, of course, a Commonwealth clone with knowledge and abilities that could save all the humans; if the government can get over its paranoia about Commonwealth technology. And since they’ve been lying to the populace about the actual strength of the Fallers, and that a Faller apocalypse is coming…they are going to have to collaborate. The problem is always in the details; pivotal individuals who are in the right place at the right time… or the wrong time can change history.
Florian and Ry end up working together with the fast-grown clone, Paula, and the legendary Warrior Angel, a woman named Kysandra who worked with Nigel, to find resources to defeat the Fallers. The story picks up very quickly as the two women search for a way to stop the Fallers and their search takes them from the unexplored polar region to other planets in the system. What they find there is remarkable and ties up some loose ends from much earlier stories.
I enjoyed this one ever so much more than the previous story. With the previous story, I was unhappy that the author presumed all the readers would be familiar with the Commonwealth. This one was much more familiar and easy to follow. This was a strong combination of plot and characters. The worldbuilding was excellent and the story moved along quite swiftly. The author kept a lot of balls in the air as so many people trying to do what they could to defeat the Fallers had to overcome prejudices and selfish greed to accomplish something and not interfere with each other. In the end, it was a very close call. It was a very exciting story and I was very satisfied with it. ~~ Catherine Book
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