Review: Stars Beyond
We were introduced to Nika and Josune (our PoV characters) and the eclectic crew of the Road to the Goberling in STARS UNCHARTED (EBR Review), an exciting book full of interesting characters, imaginative science, and some moral dilemmas. Their story continues (and wraps up) in STARS BEYOND (Amazon) as they attempt to shake off their pursuers for good.
Nika’s body-switching technology has drawn the attention of Wickmore, her ex-boyfriend’s boss, who wants it for his own nefarious ends. And he’ll do anything to track Nika down–most of it illegal. Nika’s new apprentice Snow has his former mercenary ship Captain Norris hot on his trail–because no one escapes work on his ship until a contract is finished to his satisfaction. Captain Norris is also trying to capture Josune and information she would have learned on her old ship the Hassim before he killed the rest of its crew. Little does he know that Josune doesn’t have the information he wants. The person who would really warrant his attention is Captain Roystan of the Road to the Goberling, whose heavily modified body suggests that he’s hiding from his own past and the location of a potential vast treasure.
One would think that’s enough story right there, but this time around Dunstall adds another PoV character: Alistair Laughton, an agent for the Justice Department and former security detail for the mining operation on Zell, an outerworld planet. At first glance one would think that Alistair’s story is irrelevant to the story of the crew of the Road, and originally it only seems to relate because Alistair is looking for Nika. But as Alistair’s story unfolds from bitter divorce, to working security on a mining colony and the life-changing events that occur there, we learn that there’s all sorts of connections, so be patient.
The characters of STARS BEYOND are great. We watch the modding-obsessed Nika as she adjusts to becoming a mentor and becoming part of a crew and how they become like family. Josune is a clever and brave risk-taker, willing to do what it takes to get the job done; yet her growing affection for Roystan shows a softer side. Alistair is an interesting addition partly because of his painful past, but also the recent events during his time on Zell. The planet is on the outskirts of the travelable universe, and while it’s inhabitable, it’s also dangerous. But it contains valuable and expensive metals. And aliens, the Ort. The Ort are not from Zell, and their story is interesting in itself, and their connection to Alistair becomes important, as does his friendship with Cam, the settlement’s lawyer.
As mentioned in the review for STARS UNCHARTED, the science believability gets stretched, but it becomes an important part of the story. Fortunately the story moves forward at a good clip, moving from PoV to PoV without losing momentum. The story is engaging and complicated, but Dunstall handles it with subtly. Some of my complaints from STARS UNCHARTED are fixed here (such as choppy fight scenes) don’t exist here, or else they’re significantly improved. The revelations don’t jump out at you, but make sense to the story and the characters.
STARS BEYOND by SK Dunstall continues the adventures of the crew of the Road and the big question: is "Will they survive their pasts?"
In all, STARS BEYOND fulfills the needs of a niche of folks looking for clean, exciting, clever storytelling without all the gritty GOT-style gruesomeness.
Well done, ladies.
- Recommended Age: 13+
- Language: Very little
- Violence: Several instances but not particularly gory; medical references; brief torture
- Sex: None