October 7, 2019

Review: Shadow Captain

Shadow Captain Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I gave the first book in this series five stars, and unfortunately this book turned out to be quite a disappointment. This continued the story of Adrana and Arafura Ness, in the far future (extremely far future--millions of years at least, possibly hundreds of millions) of humanity, when all the planets have been smashed to rubble and humans are eking out a not-too-great existence in the remains. There have been boom-and-bust cycles of civilization and technology, thirteen of them, and those who make their homes in the Thirteenth Occupation are surrounded by this forgotten technology, contained in the worldlets called "baubles."

(This book only brought home what an enormous unaddressed hole in the worldbuilding this idea is. How could all the planets in the solar system be broken apart? More importantly, why would anyone destroy the Earth? That question is the giant Oliphaunt, to borrow Tolkien's description, in the room, and so far the author has not answered it.)

This second book picks up the Ness sisters' story, and is told from the point of view of the older sister, Adrana. In looking over my review of the first book, I said that I hoped this would happen. Unfortunately, I need to remember to be careful what I wish for, because Adrana is a bland, staid character compared to the dynamic and obsessed Arafura. The pacing of this book is poor, with a huge chunk of the middle devoted to a pointless wandering around on a worldlet trying to get medical care for an injured crewmember, while more interesting mysteries (namely the origin of the seemingly sentient quoins) fall by the wayside.

Just a disappointment all the way around, sadly. I hope, if there is to be a third book, the author goes back to his more interesting character (Arafura) and really drills down into the worldbuilding. There seems to be a giant overarching mystery being set up here, but this book is so meandering and out-of-focus it has dimmed my enthusiasm for the series quite a bit.

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