I had never heard of Aer-ki Jyr before although he has written 36 episodes of his ‘Star Force’ series and a few other books, too. This book is not part of the ‘Star Force’ series but a standalone novel. The story starts with Jalia waking up in her spaceship. Jalia is a female Junta with red skin, a tail and what are known as head-tales but are actually sensory organs. The interesting thing here is that Julia’s spaceship is itself inside a super-sized jumpship. This huge craft caries other spaceships from one jump point to another. Jalia’s ship is considered small at being about two kilometres in length and there are lots of ships docked in the jumpship, which helps to provide a sense of scale of the craft.
I’m missing an important detail here: there are no humans. They, as a species, were wiped out by a mysterious race in the distant past and are but a memory to the current batch of civilisations. The mysterious aliens who perpetrated the deed disappeared shortly afterwards and so remain mysterious aliens. To the current crop of space-faring civilisations hunting for human artefacts is a dangerous endeavour. Recovered human technology may provide the means to enable one civilisation to overcome another. If word gets out about a new find, then races will fight to either acquire the artefact or to stop the other races from getting it.
With that minor detail out of the way back to Jalia, she is a character that I took to straightaway. She’s small compared to a human but quick-witted and feisty, too. All this becomes apparent when one of the ships aboard the jumpship explodes and a fire fight ensues between the ships’ crew and an unseen foe. As might be expected, all the excitement is about a recovered human artefact that was being secretly smuggled by the Cres. They were around when humanity were at their peak of their civilisation and survived the war between the Humans and the mysterious aliens. Although the Cres have regressed somewhat, they remain technically advanced compared to the other races and still retain memory of their allegiance to the Humans.
Despite trying to keep out of harm’s way, Jalia gets sucked into the turmoil and, due to a chance meeting with the Cres, they hire her ship to take the artefact back to Cres-controlled space. As might be expected, the journey is not without incident. Fleeing the jumpship, they set about trying to get to Cres-controlled space but are hotly pursued and ambushed at every opportunity. It’s at one of these incidents that Jalia stumbles across what everyone’s fighting over. It’s not some human technology that has everyone riled up but a living breathing human called Riax.
There is an interesting relationship between Jalia, Riax and the Cres that make for interesting reading. Jalia holds her own as one of the main characters until she’s unceremoniously shoved off to one side to take the ship off as a diversion. Riax then becomes the dominant character as he tries to stay alive and get back to Cres space. I can see the logic in the plot line but I did start to miss Jalia.
It’s not often a book grabs my attention as much as this one did. There are some interesting ideas here (civilisations reaching the ‘Apex’ of the title for one) that are well presented with a pace that hardly lets up. The wide range of alien races and their physical attributes is interesting, as is what an apex human is.
The book ends at a logical point but is clearly a primer for several more volumes. The scale of the story is epic and it would be hard to see how the author can finish it in just one more volume. Based on my reading of this book, I’m going to be parting with some hard earned cash for the next one when it becomes available. Highly recommended.
(pub: Aer-ki Jyr. 300 pages Kindle edition. Price: £4.04 ASIN: B00ECNUQPA)