Review: Alliance

Posted: October 20, 2016 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: S.K. Dunstall, Space Opera

Ean Lambert changed the way people understood the lines that ran spaceships in LINESMAN. Now he and his friends must live with the resultant fallout: the alliances between planets have been shaken up; the Confluence has revealed its true contents; and instead of only ten lines that run spaceships, there are actually twelve.

Who knew some nobody from the slums of Lancia would end up being the instigator of amazing changes in space travel?

The second in S.K. Dunstall’s Linesman novels, ALLIANCE continues soon after LINESMAN left off. Once derided for his unconventional line-repair methods, Ean Lambert is now the most sought-after linesman–enough so that enemies of the New Alliance attempt to kidnap him and learn his secrets. Now that the New Alliance has control of the alien ships found in the Confluence, it is his goal to train linesmen in the new line repair methods, and provide crew for the ships.

You see, the reason why Ean feels the urgency to crew the ships is because the ships are asking for crew. They’re lonely. Yes, the lines/ships have a sentience and desire the symbiosis involved with a ship’s crew. This is a hard thing for people unable to hear the lines to understand. Fortunately, it’s Ean’s responsibility to train the new linesmen and it isn’t hard to convince them about the ships. But they’re short on time because the Gate Union is convinced that the New Alliance will use the alien ships to start a war and will do everything they can to stop them.

The majority of the novel takes place from Ean’s PoV, and he’s gained quite a bit of confidence compared to LINESMAN. He’s not what I’d call a “man’s man,” as in full of testosterone and all hunky, but he definitely has a protective streak. He wants to do the right thing for the ships, his friends, and for the linesmen who will be the crew. He works out fine as the main character, even if there isn’t much of a character arc, and he lacks the pizzazz of some of the other characters. It’s his very “everyday guy” quality is what makes it easy for readers to feel like they could do what he does. Captain Selma Kari Wang is a new PoV, and is a character easy to understand; she provides an interesting dynamic to help us understand the bond between ship and captain. The secondary characters work fine with the story, although I tend to get overwhelmed by the number of them and all their awkward names. It’s their attitude toward Ean that makes them seem genuine.

The story never feels like it’s moving very fast, despite definite forward movement. And one of my biggest complaints from LINESMAN continues on here: the prose is on the terse side, so some chapters and scenes end abruptly while other scenes skimp on character movement (especially this) or explanations. I had a hard time visualizing what was going on, so as a result I was often confused where people were and how exactly they were communicating (I guess I wasn’t clear that the communicators had a video feed?). The pacing is more consistent here, and the build-up to the climax has better placement and works for the story that was told. However, it feels like a book two, with a storyline that’s building up for sequels. Not that this bothers me, because I’m definitely interested in seeing where Dunstall continues the story.

ALLIANCE: Who knew that some nobody from the slums would end up being the instigator of amazing changes in space travel? This author, that's who.

Easily the best part of the book is the setting. Spaceships. Linesmen like Ean who can fix all twelve lines, some up to ten, some up to six, but there are also single linesmen like Fergus. Figuring out what line seven can do (no one really knows until Ean decides to figure it out). Training new linesmen. Talking/singing to the ships. Using the lines to gather information, manipulate space, and communicate. I love the creativity of this story, yet also the familiarity of the struggle to understand something completely different than what you’ve been taught.

I can’t wait for book three, CONFLUENCE, coming out next month.

  • Recommended Age: 13+ more for comprehension than content (my 13-year-old son is enjoying this series as much as I am)
  • Language: None
  • Violence: Peril; non-gruesome on-screen deaths
  • Sex: None

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