Review: Echoes (The Epherium Chronicles #3) by T.D. Wilson

Echoes (The Epherium Chronicles, #3)

Battle stations! Echoes, the third book of ‘The Epherium Chronicles’ by T.D. Wilson, begins and ends with conflict. Lester Styles, captain of the EDF Cestus, is in charge of the supply train headed for Cygni. He has one jump left to make and one ship reporting a problem with their space-fold drive. Appointing the Cestus rearguard, he waits for the entire train to make the jump before following. The Cestus never makes the jump. When Captain James Hood investigates, he finds nothing but wreckage and a few survivors. The purpose and perpetrator of the attack are a mystery, but Hood has his suspicions and more problems than stars on his chart.

The peace he brokered with the Cilik’ti is under threat and the Cilik’ti Ambassador, Kree, is keeping a dangerous secret. The colonists at Tau Ceti are struggling to maintain a foothold, battling the native fauna and an inexplicable side effect of the Embrace technology they used during the twenty-five year voyage. Fighter pilots are brawling aboard the Armstrong and someone else is bent on sabotage.

Skirmishes flare across the galaxy. The targets seem random but, as each threat is investigated, evidence continues to point to the ship that shouldn’t be, the one that followed the Armstrong’s voyage to Cygni. As if all this isn’t enough to keep the reader flipping pages, Maya Greywalker’s story shifts from the sidelines here, showing that her inclusion on this mission is probably more than coincidental.

The pace of Echoes far outstrips the previous two books in this series. There is so much going on, it’s difficult to take a pause and I ended up reading the second half of the book in one sitting. Every page revealed new evidence and a new twist, another problem Hood and his crew had to solve. There is combat and conflict, small scale and large. Space battles and more time with the fantastic MACE-equipped marines. More people to keep track of, but Wilson has done such a good job of cementing the places of the initial characters that the few additions walk in seamlessly.

I enjoyed the time spent with Rafael Sanchez and Maya Greywalker in this novel. We get to see them training together again and building something more than a friendship. These are two of my favourite characters in the books. Sanchez for his personality and Maya for her back story.

We didn’t get as much time with Hood, but that’s probably a good thing. He’s a busy guy and best left to doing what he does best, leading the mission. He faces new challenges this book, though, which keeps the entire story fresh. In fact, everyone faces challenges in Echoes. Every character is tested in some way. We’re at the mid-point of the series, so this is timely and a few words exchanged with author T.D. Wilson indicated that this is fully his intent with this novel, to see what his characters are made of.

Where to from here? To the third colony, I hope. So far, Cygni seems like a winner, but Tau Ceti may still be viable. What problems will the colonists of the third mission face? War is brewing, if not already declared, and saboteurs are roaming the galaxy, agenda undefined and Kree has a mission of his own, which could have a bearing on the outcome of many, many things.

Written for SFCrowsnest.

Review: Crucible (The Epherium Chronicles #2) by T.D. Wilson

Crucible (The Epherium Chronicles, #2)

Twenty-five years ago, the Epherium Corporation launched three colony ships to settle new worlds. In command of the new flagship Armstrong, Captain James Hood is directed to investigate mysterious signals from those nearly forgotten ships. His mission is complicated by startling revelations regarding the deep sleep technology used to quicken colonist’s long journey and a plot seemingly devised to prevent him from catching up with them.

Crucible, book two in The Epherium Chronicles, picks up the story up one jump from the Cygni system where Hood hopes to find a thriving colony. When they do find evidence of the colony ship Magellan and nearly three thousand colonists doing their best to tame a wild planet, Hood faces perhaps his most daunting challenge. Twenty-five years have passed for these men and women and Earth is not as they left it. An alien enemy has decimated the Mars. Many will have lost friends and relatives. But that’s not all. Cygni system might also be in danger, from the alien Cilik’ti and perhaps the corporation that funded the original mission.

Hood must prepare the colonists for the visible enemy first, the Cilik’ti. But even as they brace under the threat of invasion and attack, the invisible enemy is there, plans unknown.

Author T.D. Wilson combines several elements to make a very compelling read. The plot laid out in Embrace, the first book of The Epherium Chronicles, is expanded upon here without too much complication. The personal threads are deepened, however, with Hood being reunited with his uncle and two women he knew as a boy. If he didn’t already feel beholden by duty, he now has more than one reason to protect the new colony.

We learn more about the Cilik’ti in Crucible, which is much appreciated. There is no big passage of history for the reader to wade through, however. All revelations come exactly as they should, on a need to know basis. It’s difficult to elucidate this part of the plot without spoiling a good chunk of the story, so I’ll move on to the action. There’s lots of it and it’s all pretty awesome. Space battles, ground battles, power armour and classic David and Goliath conflicts. Wilson skips from view to view seamlessly so that we get in on every aspect, too, from the colonists and teams on the ground, to the men and women aboard the Armstrong. These pages were thrilling and the conclusion is never foregone. I enjoyed the tie-in with Hood’s chess games as the captain measured his progress against that of his enemies. The battle is much more than a game, however. It is, in fact, the crucible which will forever change humanity’s relationship with the Cilik’ti.

Crucible is a very enjoyable read. It’s got intrigue, plenty of action and a good dose of heart. Best of all, however, it’s not a sequel that either lets the story dip into obscurity or skip off on a vastly different tangent. We’re definitely still heading forward here, with a deeper and even more interesting story. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens in the next installment, Echoes*, due to be released 30 March 2015.

Written for SFCrowsnest.

Watch for my review of Echoes on Wednesday!

Review: Embrace (The Epherium Chronicles, #1) by T.D. Wilson

Embrace (The Epherium Chronicles, #1)

 

It’s the year 2155 and humanity has survived first contact and conflict with the alien Cilik’ti. A veteran of this war, Captain James Hood now has the opportunity to follow the dream that led him to serve in the Earth Defense Forces. Twenty-five years ago, the Epherium Corporation launched three colony ships to settle new worlds. In command of the new flagship Armstrong, Hood is directed to investigate mysterious signals from those nearly forgotten colony ships.

Technology has improved such that the Armstrong can navigate folded space in order to reach the ships’ location in weeks rather than years, but the journey will still be fraught with peril. The Cilik’ti are still out there and they could be the largest threat to any new colony. Accordingly, Hood must gather a team that is prepared for that and more.

Once out in the black, the Armstrong is plagued by myriad small problems that could be the growing pains of any new crew – personality conflicts, security issues and various ailments – and someone is sneaking around the ship. When crew members are found murdered, the two survivors fall suspect but of what plot, security chief Maya Greywalker cannot figure out. There are too many unknowns. Then there is the mysterious ship shadowing their journey. Unravelling the identity of that ship produces more questions than answers, however, casting an entirely new light on the current mission and the one from twenty-five years before.

Embrace starts slowly with the introduction of the new Akita class dreadnaught Armstrong and the man selected to captain her, James Hood. From there, pivotal members of the team selected by Hood are introduced with back story and complications. In between, the reader is treated to snippets of world-building and history. Though eager to get to the mission, I did appreciate the fact author T.D. Wilson took time to set the scene. There is something to be said for dropping the reader into the middle of the plot and letting them figure out where they are and who everyone is. Beginning at the beginning and progressing to the middle is a kinder journey and saves having to insert vast quantities of exposition into the middle of the action later on.

Once the mission launches, the pace picks up and from there, rolls into a tighter and tighter ball, gathering plot threads and characters as it runs. This is when you appreciate the groundwork. You know who everyone is and have a fair enough idea of their motivation but, in some cases, you’re still not sure if they are a friend or foe. Wilson is careful on that score, so that when crew members are implicated and exonerated, each revelation comes as a surprise.

When the mystery surrounding the original mission, that of the colony ships, is exposed, Embrace takes the leap from entertaining to downright fascinating. Then the book ends, which might be more annoying if the sequel were not already available.

All in all, I found the writing and story-telling solid. I enjoyed meeting Wilson’s cast of characters and look forward to seeing how their conflicts continue to grow and/or resolve as the main plot progresses.

Written for SFCrowsnest.