The first thing you need to know about this book is that it is the third and final title in a trilogy. While I won't go so far as to say that this book can't be read without having read the first two instalments I would strongly recommend against such a course of action.
Twenty years have passed since the Near Earth Object christened Keanu - and I still like that play with words - took several hundred humans from the only home they ever knew and forced them to create a community for themselves in space. Over the course of those years the people on Keanu have travelled through space while learning to live with and within Keanu's confines. Now Keanu is on its way back to Earth with a mission that needs to succeed in order to save not only all human life but also the home planet of those who create the NEO.
Reivers, the semi mechanical enemies of Keanu's creators, have successfully established themselves on Earth after being forced to flee the NEO and have started a process that will destroy the planet if they manage to bring it to a successful conclusion.
Rachel Stewart is in charge of the small group of humans and one alien whose only goal is to find a way to stop and destroy the Reivers before they can finalise their programme. But alone on a planet they don't really know anymore, in a world most of which is controlled by those Reivers, it appears their mission may be doomed to fail before it has properly begun. It will take help from unexpected quarters as well as some startling developments on Keanu to provide any hope for our heroes as well as the billions of lives they are trying to save.
This story is told from several perspectives in alternate chapters which worked very well for me because it separated the science chapters from those concerned with emotions and impressions. The result of the multiple voices is that even a reader like me, who often gets bogged down in the scientific aspects of a Science-Fiction novel, has no problem staying with the story. Whenever the narrative appeared to be getting too technical for my liking the perspective would change and take me, for example, from a mechanical creature with thought process I could barely follow into the mind of a 14 year old girl whose emotions where all to recognisable.
What I really liked is that this book forced me to think about certain things. For example, you would think that returning to Earth after twenty years would be a dream come true for the humans on Keanu and that a girl who was born on the NEO and had only ever heard about life on her parent's home planet would be delighted to go there. It took me a while to realise that it made sense for those same humans to yearn for a return to the NEO; earth wasn't home anymore because home is, after all, where the heart is. And after twenty years, the heart was firmly established on Keanu.
It is clear from the way this book is written that the authors are screenwriters. The story is told in scenes; each chapter having a different narrator and its own set-up. While I know nothing about screenwriting it is easy to imagine that it wouldn't take too much work to transform the three novels in this trilogy into scripts. That doesn't mean this book is harder to read than most novels though; quite the opposite in fact. All three of the books in this series are quick to grab the reader's attention and easy to read. Having said that, I have to admit that the first book in this series was by far my favourite.
Overall I would have to say that this trilogy impressed me. The story is original, manages to create a fantastical yet easy to believe environment and gives the reader a fascinating combination of all too recognisable human behaviour and imaginative alien creations. And it doesn't hurt at all than in the middle of all the danger and action there is time for a philosophical observation or two:
"Assuming anything that had happened in the past twenty years was an adventure. Yes, she'd had had unusual experiences - but so had those she left on Earth. Love was a unique experience. Parenthood. Work. Accomplishment. Failure. Death. Adventure was really just life, the days flowing into and out of each other."
While this book concludes the `Heaven's Shadow' trilogy, I won't be surprised if the authors decide to revisit these characters in the future. The way the book ends allows for a whole new story-line in a brand new universe. If that story becomes available one day, I will be among the first readers to dive into it.
After reading the first two books in this trilogy, I was hopeful that the conclusion would leave me satisfied, excited and thrilled. Sadly, this final instalment left me unmoved and frankly, a little bored. The action here takes place twenty years after the events in the second book and struggles because of it - essentially starting from scratch with a bunch of characters who hold little resemblance to those in the previous books. The writing never feels urgent or tense, despite the 'end of the world scenario.' There is little flesh on the bones of these people that we are supposed to care about. And, more than the other two books, this feels like it was rushed - like an expanded screenplay. The story is interesting, but the execution left me numb. It might make a good TV show but it certainly hasn't made for a good read. A real shame...
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I recommend this 3rd part trilogy to any avid science fiction reader. I bought book 2 in a sale and couldn't wait to buy books 1 and 3 and get on with reading, it was totally unsustainable!!! I only wish there was a book 4 as I would really love to know how Keanu and its residents have got on.