This review is for the E-ARC, however, I was tardy both in reading and writing, so the book was already released at the time of this review. The review was written on July 21st, but I read the story on June 25th.
For book one in this series, The Silver Ships, I wrote a long review about why I (presumably) received an ARC from Mr. Jucha and why I liked his debut novel. From that enjoyment, I expected Libre to be a little less fun due to a lack of new-Universe-excitement but still worth the time. And so it was.
Libre's focus expands from one ship and one mission to several ships, personalities, and a dual mission. Alex and Renee team up with several New Terrans and Meridians in order to design weapons and warships to fight the alien silver ships as well as try to save the Meridians on the planet Libre from the alien invasion through a full planetary evacuation. Everything is on a deadline, so cultural clashes and technological integrations are both moving very quickly through the story.
As in the first novel, the pacing speeds up in order to provide wide-angle views of time and groups of people and then slows down to focus in on a particular event, exchange, or discovery. The erratic timing did not bother me, as I knew from experience with The Silver Ships that the details were important.
This is a fun book with some solid emotional lessons to be had regarding self-improvement, self confidence, courage, and sacrifice. I adore how the characters are brought to life in only a few sentences. I appreciate that the Self Aware Digital Entities all have personalities and talents as well as enhanced capabilities. I appreciate that, while Alex has to be the hero, there is room for other characters to become beloved. And I cried twice.
On the less positive side, Mr. Jucha fell prey to the need for sequel hooks at the end of his story. I feel strongly that the story ended about six pages too late, and that it would have closed with a more tidy, elegant ending if he had borrowed from Stargate (the movie) and ended on the last jump. As it was, the ending annoyed me enough to make me take a breather before writing this review.
I picked it up because I liked the first in the series. I recommend the series (but don't start on book 2) for people who enjoy the Liaden Universe, the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, and Hellspark. But if you thought Ender's Game ended too late, or have issues with blatant sequel hooks, be warned.
Books for 2015