The third book in the SF trilogy.
Publication year: 2004
Running time: 10 hours and 5 minutes
Narrator: Gregory Linington
Unlike in previous books, which had multiple point-of-view characters sharing the spotlight nearly equally, this book has two major ones: retired Colonel Lyle Kaufman and 14-year-old Amanda Capelo. Others have far less time as POV characters. In this universe humans are at war with the alien Fallers who refuse to communicate with humans. The only information the humans have about the Fallers came from Marbet Grant in the previous book.
Kaufman and his lover the Sensitive (genetically engineered human who is extremely beautiful and can pretty much read others’ thoughts and emotions from small cues) Marbet Grant are looking for a way to get back to the World. But even though the planet isn’t officially quarantined, it’s very hard to get there. In the end, they have to resort of illegal ways to get there. Kaufman is troubled by the humans who were left behind when the last human expedition left and wants to save them. But it turns out that they don’t require saving; instead Kaufman and Grant realize that they have to find Tom Capelo. And in order to do it, they join forces with a very formidable woman.
Amanda Capelo is home when she shouldn’t be and she witnesses the kidnapping of her father, the famous and grouchy physicist Tom Capelo. At first, she doesn’t realize what happened but as soon as she does, she thinks long about it and comes to the conclusion that she has to leave and reach Marbet Grant who will help her. Amanda takes with her some jewelry and tries to go to Mars where Grant is supposed to be. However, even for a very clever 14-year-old, the world can be a surprising and dangerous place. She’s rescued by a Catholic priest who turns out to be part of the anti-War movement. And he has plans for her.
Kaufman’s and Amanda’s stories are separate for almost the whole book even though their goals are the same. We’re also introduced to a bunch of new characters. The most significant of them is Magdalene, a woman who has overcome her past and become one of the most powerful information brokers in the human universe. However, I almost felt like I liked the idea of her (as a character) more than how she was used in the book. I also didn’t really care for the whole teenager shenanigans.
This time we barely see the Worlders who were a big part of the previous books. We see more of the Fallers but they aren’t nearly as distinct as the Worlders were. In fact, the book has far more human politics than xenoanthropology.
The book has its faults (for example we never find out who built the wormhole tunnels and other artifacts and nobody seems really interested to know or why backwater World had such artifacts) but I enjoyed it. It’s a good ending to the series.