Well, if you like your science fiction books to be heavy on the “science” then you’re going to love this book. There is a lot of scientific jargon in this book mostly explaining how things should work when they don’t. You’re also not going to be anywhere near Earth. As I am Human, I had the distinct feeling that I was the alien in the book and my human character wasn’t all that impressive. Along with the very few humans, there are Kronogri, Leg’hrul, and Eithraak species that dominate this part of the universe. I’m not even going to try and describe each of these species, but you will get to read about each in the book. I’ll leave it up to your imagination as to what each one of these aliens look like. My imagination isn’t very flexible when I can barely pronounce the names of the species I’m reading about and then you’ll have to read the names for each character. I’m not a linguist and some of these names are killers!
Initially, Morthasune Ruthilos, Leg’hrul scientist, is meeting up with a First Nevair Shakrii Dehn-Herensk. They are going to hire a starship to take them to a far region of space not yet explored. Morthasune, a.k.a. “Morthas” noticed something around a previously unexplored planet that he needs to check out. The Trans Union is also interested in what he found since it could lead to a “first contact” situation which obviously has happened a lot in this universe. The female Kronogri Office, a.k.a. “Shakrii” is going on the mission to ensure the government gets first hand knowledge of what’s out there. I’m not exactly sure why the Trans Union government would be worried and that worry isn’t much since she’s the only military person going on the mission. Even the ship they hire is a civilian survey vessel that’s about as far from a military space ship as possible.
Anway, they do hire the LSS Hiavres captained by another Kronogri named Kalsik Ir-Hralan or Kalisk for short. He’s a male of the species and has a chip on his shoulder towards the Kronogri military which is obvious from the very start. He’s also former Kronogri military although that career didn’t end well. You get the story on that later in the book. The come the crew of the Hiavres (I can’t even pronounce this very well). There’s Serie Hishaz, a female Leg’hrul and a very good engineer. She takes care of the ship for Captain Kalisk and has done so for quite some time. Now come the Human called Nathaniel Cohen. Nathan is the ship’s pilot/navigator and he seems confident while piloting the starship, but he’s not all that courageous as you’ll later come to know. Lastly, is IVAN the ship’s A.I. He’s quite a nosy dude either by just listening to everything on the ship or walking around at times poking his nose in where he wants. He’s very intelligent and just borders on being sentient. Later, you’ll find what a sentient artificial being really is like, good and bad! Oh, yeah, did I mention that Nathan (human) has a thing going with Serie (a Leg’hrul)!
So the starship Hiavres sets out on a fairly long journey which will take about 23 Sol days in warp. Along the way, you’ll hear from each of the crew and some of what’s expected when they get to their destination. You’ll also find out that every single alien in this ship has issues of some kind or another. It’s almost impossible to think such diverse creatures could ever get along, but the do for the most part. It does seem to take about half the book to finally reach SQ-A76. It’s going to be a unique place that seems rather pleasant at first. It takes awhile for things to change, but all it did take was for Shakrii to kill an animal on the primary planet. Then all heck begins to break lose, slowly at first and then it’s almost the end of the mission. What they found wasn’t expected, but it was very, very advanced and highly intelligent. If only it wasn’t insane!
I did enjoy the book although it wasn’t a typical military sc-fi novel. It was very interesting even though there were parts that were kind of tedious. You have to read a lot of stuff about each of the characters to understand why they do what they do and then you have try and understand an alien A.I. A supposedly very advanced A.I., one that makes other A.I.s. This master A.I. has a purpose for being and he’s not going to stop his efforts even though his mission should have ended 3,000 year ago. Yeah, put your thinking cap on for this one. It’s a very good and detailed story!