‘Alliance’ is the second ‘Linesman’ novel by S. K. Dunstall (sisters Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall). There’s no break in the timeline between the two books so it picks up where ‘Linesman’ left off. The story opens with Captain Selma Kari Wang on board her spaceship. They were on assignment to test out some new weapons for Gate Union when they receive a call from their planetary government with some important news. The ship and crew hail from the world of Nove Tahiti which was in the Gate Union amalgamation of worlds but has now seceded from Gate Union to join the New Alliance of Worlds which includes Lancia.
For those new to the series, there are three human political entities. The New Alliance (formed from remnants of the old Alliance with some new members), Redmond and Gate Union. Technically, the New Alliance and Gate Union are at war which means Nova Tahiti has effectively swapped sides. Captain Wang decides to complete her assignment but not share any of the findings with their former allies. Unfortunately, her ship is attacked and decimated leaving her as the only survivor. Even she did not escape unscathed and lost both legs in the incident.
One of the interesting things about the Linesman universe is that ship captains seem to become emotionally attached to their ships. When there is a disaster causing the destruction of a ship, it seems that the captains, assuming they survive, is then unable or at least unwilling to captain another ship. Captain Wang is a clear example of this. Even though she is rescued and her legs regenerated, she feels unfit to command a new ship. It’s not something she has a choice about, though, as the Nova Tahiti government volunteer her to be the new captain of the alien vessel in the New Alliance fleet.
Captain Wang’s mental state as she takes on her new command provides an interesting storyline although it’s just one of several that are happening concurrently. There’s also the flip side to the captain/ship bonding to consider. What happens when a ship is forcibly taken away from a captain but remains in perfect working order? What would the captain do in such a situation? We get to find out in ‘Alliance’.
The maverick but highly talented linesman Ean Lambert is continuing to train New Alliance linesman in his unorthodox methods. Not all the new recruits are as enthusiastic with the new training regime as Lambart would have hoped. Lambart himself is a prize asset to the New Alliance as his skills with the Lines continues to develop. The other human factions have become aware of Lambart and he is now a target for several espionage attempts. Even the Linesman Guild gets in on the act.
In a lot of trilogies, the second book can be a bit of a letdown as it’s just a filler between the exciting opening and the satisfying ending. That’s not the case with ‘Alliance’ which throws up several new storylines while nicely developing the main characters. There are significant political manoeuvrings going on behind the scenes within the human factions. Some of the main players are looking to take full advantage of any opportunity to increase their wealth and power whatever the cost.
While ‘Alliance’ is a good read in its own right, you need to have read the first novel ‘Linesman’ to be able to understand what’s going on as there isn’t a lot of back filling. It does end at a logical point but there’s a lot of unresolved issues that the third novel, ‘Confluence’, will have to tidy up. Things like the war for example. I’m looking forward to it.
(pub: ACE Books, 2016. 389 page paperback. Price: $7.99 (US), £ 6.50 (UK. ISBN: 978-0-425-27953-3)