The Boss is back!

Publication year: 2011
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrator: Jennifer Van Dyck
Running Time: 10 hours, 33 minutes

The story starts in other time and place. The good ship Ivoire is under attack from several enemy ships and Captain “Coop” Cooper has to make the decision to use his Anacopa drive which can fold space. Unfortunately, the drive is damaged at just the moment when it’s used.

After the events in “Diving into the Wreck” Boss has created a large company which is tracking down Stealth Tech which is very dangerous to everyone else except a small group of people who have the genetic marker to survive it. So far, the tech has always been found inside the ancient Dignity Vessels, huge space crafts. Boss wants to keep the tech out of the hands of the biggest government around, the Empire, in order to keep the balance of power.

Even though Boss is a loner by nature, she now has a lot of employees and she has to start trusting them. One of her people has noticed the city of Vaychen which is at least five thousand years ago and is convinced that they will find Stealth Tech in the caves below the city. Boss isn’t convinced but agrees to the mission and leads it herself. She’s very uncomfortable on ground and leading a group people who are mostly strangers to her. The people she calls the Six are the six other individuals who have the genetic marker to survive the Stealth Tech. Unfortunately for Boss, they don’t have much experience in exploration.

The locals don’t make matters any easier. The people of Vaychen are insular to the point of xenophobia; they don’t trust outsiders and try their best to limit the outsiders’ moments. Also, while they welcome tourists and make things easy for touring groups, they don’t like anyone snooping into their business. They don’t let anyone into the caves without six local guides. And they’re very patriarchal to the point that Boss has to appoint one of her male employees as a liaison between her and the guides.

Once the team starts to work in the caves, they make a startling discovery: a sleek Dignity Vessel appears. Boss and her crew are frantic to conceal this from the local government and to explore it themselves.

The Dignity Vessel is, of course, Coop’s ship. The crew are startled to find themselves in an abandoned outpost with strange people and they start to investigate the place and the people.

The two crews couldn’t be more different: Boss’ team has archeologists and scientists and space explorers who are at odds with the own government (and each other) while Coop’s crew is military. Yet, they both trust their leaders. Coop and Boss are startlingly similar: both are cautious and think about their crew first. In the past, Boss has acted impulsively and others had paid the price. Now, she forces herself to be careful. Coop and his crew are also investigating things but are more limited because they don’t want to reveal themselves to the strange people.

This time the story is slower and suspenseful. I was delighted to find out that Coop’s first contact team is linguists! They don’t have any instant translating machines so they have to painstakingly gather linguistics’ data and extrapolate from there. This makes the tale slower but the focus isn’t on fast-pace but the slow revealing of secrets and discovery of what has happened. Well, some people might find it slow but I found it fascinating. While Boss’s (and Coop’s) team is underground doing the legwork, the rest of her people are above ground researching the city’s history.

However, the story depends a lot on the background information that is found in the first book, so I recommend reading that first.

The cast of characters is pretty large with both teams and the locals. There are two point-of-view characters: the Boss who narrates in first person and present tense and Coop’s story is told in third person and in the normal past tense

The universe doesn’t seem to have any aliens. Instead there are several cultures of humans who have colonized various planets thousands of years ago. There’s a reference to a myth about Earth.

The ending is left open for the next book (yay!) but it’s not really a cliffhanger.

Van Dyck’s narration is good. She uses a slower tone, a deeper voice, and an accent for the locals which I found appropriate; all the local characters are male and it’s mentioned in the text that they have an accent.