The narrative follows the Captain and crew of a starship, as they set out to investigate various stellar anomalies. One of those turns out to be something rather larger, and everything very quickly goes from bad to worse to downright terrible. This is a very plot driven book, and I don’t want to hand out spoilers, but I will say that after an initially slow burning lead-in, most of the book was pretty much non-stop action, as characters were forced to react quickly to one crisis or another.
The central narrative split is between the space-side staff, and a team of Marines and Researchers who are used to investigate interesting and potentially lethal knick-knacks. The characters are a bit thin, their inner dialogue and logic not really given the exploration they deserve (particularly the ship’s Captain), but this is more an action-movie of a book than a character study, and so if we’ve handed over nuanced character development in favour of desperate retreats, heroics and explosions, I can’t complain.
Two things make this text stand out – firstly, the writing is more than competent, and makes for a very easy read; the setting is clearly described, and the dialogue flows along smoothly. It might seem obvious, but this does make the text more of a pleasure to read. Secondly, the author has clearly put in some effort to have a consistent scientific framework in their universe, and isn’t shy about providing some technological context to some of the decisions. I couldn’t speak to the accuracy of the science, but it’s nice to feel like everything isn’t happening “because magic tech”, and that the author has thought about how everything in the universe works.
The whole thing is fast paced, and unashamedly action, and with the scientific overlay, it feels like a very effective melange of Aliens and Ringworld (and that's a good thing!)
From a stand-alone point of view, it’s a good book; there are a few referents to the rest of the series, which I had to roll along with, but nothing that really broke the narrative flow – there was no required knowledge of the rest of the series to enjoy this one.
Overall then, a good piece of military sci-fi, with excellent prose, and an impressive amount of science layered over the top. If you enjoy the genre (and probably even if you don’t), this is a good read – sufficiently so that now I’ll be checking out the rest of the series!