This book is the sequel to War Dogs. Like the The Forge of God series by Bear, the second book has a very different focus and tone from the first book in the series, and I think that might be a bit off-putting to many readers.
The first book is Vietnam on Mars. This book is a scientific puzzle with some military trappings. Venn, our soldier from the first book who stumbled on evidence of an ancient intelligence in our solar system in the midst of a war we’re taking part in by the direction of the “Gurus,” a race of aliens who have been sharing their technology with us, for aid against the “Antagonists” (enemy aliens who are invading the system – or are they?) is dragged into a resistance movement. One faction of people who have been serving the Gurus’ interests begin to question their motives and the stories they’ve been told. Tension is ratcheted up by the other factions, those who still serve the Gurus, pursuing this group. Those who have been ordered into the fray to “protect” Venn and another survivor from the first book are not necessarily on board with this. There’s a lot of unnecessary information-guarding that I think is unrealistic considering the circumstances, and I also think it just slows down the plot.
I see why many people disliked this book, even if they liked the first one (which was by no means universal.) It feels a bit padded to me. All the stress of pursuit feels almost besides the point. What is important is Venn’s ability to access the information that is shared through the alien intelligence. Even most of the delays thrown in to increase the tension of that plot feel somewhat contrived, and I admit, I got impatient with it on several occasions.
Ultimately it’s still a great read, though. I chewed through this within a matter of a couple of days. And now we’re poised to find our final answers to the mystery in the final book. Jury’s still out, however, because whether or not I finally decide this book was awesome, or crap, will depend on the payoff in the final chapter.