This is the sequel to “Out of the Dark” published in 2010. It’s worth reading the first book before this one to really appreciate the storytelling; so, please…desist reading this review until you’ve read the first book.
The Shongairi have been thrown off Earth; left for their homeworld with their tail between their legs and having been forced to leave all their technology for the clever monkeys to reverse engineer and improve upon. They are immediately pursued by Vlad, Stephen and several others of their kind; intent on visiting the Shongairi homeworld and showing them the same hospitality; impressing upon them and the Hegemony that the humans are not to be underestimated ever again.
There’s nothing to bring back all the lost lives but because of the amazing technologies, those who are left are gifted with a level of post-scarcity existence only dreamed of by science fiction writers. And it is Governor Howell’s intention to bring this largesse to every corner of the world; no strings attached. But he has more on his mind than just succoring all the suffering survivors; he foresees the need to be prepared for when the Shongairi or others from the Hegemony return, as they surely will. And to be prepared means more than building their own starships; it means the whole world has to be united. But, humans being humans, many still put their own petty wants and needs above the greater good and have to be… persuaded. Persuasion is what Vlad’s vampires do very well.
Unfortunately for poor Dave, he is dragooned into being part of now-President Howell’s new planetary government. But saving what’s left of humanity and also uniting it into a cohesive whole is the easy part… While the poorest estimation is that the earth probably has at least a hundred years before they can expect a visit from the Hegemony; that is barely enough time to be properly prepared. And one of the first things that Howell and Dave foresee is the need for allies. With access to the Shongairi’s entire database of all the species in the Hegemony including a record of all planets being observed, they can pick and choose which species to approach first.
Much of the story addresses the concept that the Hegemony adheres to a policy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” What this means is that once they have a technology that works, they quit improving upon it. And, what’s worse in humans’ eyes, they fail to see other applications. The humans are amazed to discover little innovation has happened in the Hegemony for several thousands of years and that they failed to apply their knowledge and technology in several significant directions something the humans are happy to exploit.
The balance of the story is about their first first-contact with another species. They pick a planet that has a level of technology almost equivalent to where Earth was pre-invasion and is closest to Earth. Most of the book is about their efforts to convince the planet’s warring factions to cooperate so that Earth can share the benefits of the new technology. But the Sarthians fail to appreciate exactly how advanced the Earthian’s technology is since Dave is cautious about sharing all their resources. This part has Weber’s trademark smirkiness (yes, that’s a word) as the Sarthians also underestimate and misunderstand the humans’ intentions. While there is plenty of destruction and unfortunate death, there is a humorous bent to the ultimate resolution. I was also very pleased at how the authors chose to explain the vampires’ origins probably the most original idea ever. I am eager to see how they might play it out as I was initially unhappy at what looked like a McGuffin and even anachronous; but now it totally gels with the story.
I waited through almost the entire book for some indication of the success or failure of Vlad’s and Stephen’s mission to the Shongairi homeworld. I had anticipated that some portion of the book would be devoted to their adventures but it appears that the authors surely intend another book to finish this story arc. Lawdy, I sure hope it isn’t another ten years…I’m frothing at the bit. ~~ Catherine Book
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