|Submitted by Archren |
(Aug 11, 2006)
“Superluminal” suffers from the well known middle-book-in-a-trilogy syndrome. This would be a completely forgivable sin if one could move immediately on to the third book. However, the tragic circumstance here is that there won’t be a third book. The publisher has abandoned the trilogy in the middle. Thus it becomes impossible to read this slightly clunky middle book and not wish that you were reading a tighter duology instead.
In this volume we continue to follow the intra-solar-system war started in “Metaplanetary.” Under the rule of “Director Amés,” the inner solar system (where the bulk of the energy of the solar system is concentrated) is vying for control of the outer solar system (where the bulk of the mass of the solar system is located). The invasion progresses around the space of Jupiter’s moon Io, Pluto and the giant wind power station located in one of the storm systems of Neptune.
On other fronts, the inner solar system continues to try to eradicate all AI people, called “free converts.” Those that are found are dumped into a concentration camp on Mars. Having joined up with a group of resistance/freedom fighters, the young half human/ half free convert girl Aubry is a crucial part of an assault on this concentration camp, trying to free her mother Danis who is held there.
A lot of other small things happen: the Cloudships start training a formal Navy; Major Theory’s (an AI) relationship with the human woman Jennifer moves (incrementally) forward as she starts to bond with his son; a physicist makes an important breakthrough that could turn the tide of the war and befriends a wild Jeep; Director Amés consolidates his rule through the use of Glory, an addictive feeling propagated through the Net.
You can see some of the classic middle book symptoms there: a large number of plots are each only advanced forward slightly, not yet coming to convergence. It feels padded by hitting a host of different viewpoint characters. The world building that seemed so incredible in the first book isn’t new here, and not much is added. Some consequences are further explored, but it’s lacking in that pervasive “sense of wonder” that the first one had.
One exceptionally worthy addition in this volume is a set of comprehensive appendices and glossary, which are a huge help to explaining details of how things work and are related, things that may only have been alluded to in the text. If you’re curious for more details than you got in the first volume, then this is a must. Otherwise I might recommend reading the first one and being content with the world building there. This volume regrettably doesn’t add as much as you’d like it to.