‘Nova War’ is the second book in Mr Gibson’s Shoal series. The situation has developed from what we saw in ‘Stealing Light’ to a full scale war between the two most powerful civilizations known to humanity. What does a full scale war mean? For people who have not read the books and yet want the imagery, let me describe the following situation.
In one hand, you hold a star. You close the hand, and the star is no more. Any planets orbiting the star disappear in a supernova along with all the people who lived in the system.
There is no more powerful weapon by pure destructive force. The star is indefensible and when the hand is closed, nothing can open it again. Is there anyone who is qualified to decide when to close that hand?
And, yet, that is what the Shoal do. Or, maybe not the Shoal. That is what Trader does. And so begins a war of proportions few people can imagine with hundreds if not thousands of suns wiped out. The ultimate casualty of such a war is of course the people who are too weak to defend themselves: the Shoal forsake some of their former protectorates and their enemies advance. Which is not to say that the superpowers do not suffer: The Shoal and their enemies die in the billions along with everyone else.
It is this situation that Dakota and Lucas need to navigate first from their position as Bandati prisoners and then as independent actors in this war that is about to begin. The Magi ships have a greater role to fill, and Dakota can continue trying to figure out how to redeem herself. Yet, this book is less about her and more about the possibilities of the universe. After all, we learn of the species called the Emissaries. The Emissaries of God, that is.
I have to admire Mr Gibson for the inventiveness he has put into creating new races. The Emissaries are a very good example of something I am not sure I like or dislike. I do know that they are unique. I mean, what else could I possible call an elephant who yells “Where is God?” and crushes flying aliens (and anything else in their way)…
The Shoal are as excellent as before, and we gain a bit more insight into humanity as well. The Freehold is one place we learn some more of, but a particular specimen of the species, Hugo Moss, is the character that turns quite a bit more relevant in this episode.
What we learn towards the end of the book is a different type of power. We’re not speaking of destruction by explosions and force any more. No, instead as the FTL drive can be used as the supreme weapon of destruction, then what we hear rumours of is a weapon that operates on morals. Or, at least, that is what the highly unreliable Trader says. If he can be trusted this time, Dakota might have a chance at saving us all. If not, well… let’s say I would not prefer to meet one of the Emissaries on the ground although the likelihood of that will increase by the day.