Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Reefs of Time (Out of Time #1) (Chaos Chronicles #5), by Jeffrey A. Carver

Starstream Publications/Book View Cafe, July 2019

This is the first of the Out of Time duology, which together are part of the larger Chaos Chronicles series. The second book of the duology, Crucible of Time, is due out in September. And since I have the ARC, I feel confident in saying, yes, it exists, and yes, you can pre-order it, and can have it in September.

There's a brief intro to get you caught up on where the characters are and why, and then se plunge into the story.

John Bandicut, Antares, Li-Jared, Ik, the robot Napoleon, and the AI Jeaves, are hanging out in a perfectly nice meadow on Shipworld, waiting for something, anything, to happen. It's not that they don't need the rest, after a series of intense, dangerous missions, but they also feel a bit disconnected and even bored.

Not to mention the fact that Ik's translator stones died in their last mission, to the Starmaker Nebula, and he can't really communicate with the others. So it's a bit of a relief when Jeaves shows up to ask them to come to a meeting. Just, you understand, to give advice, not to take on a new mission just yet. They deserve their R&R!

Yeah, well, you know how that goes, right?

Except for the part where, Ik, not able to understand much of the discussion, wanders off to try out one of the nearby workstations, to see if he can find anything useful. Watching events on another part of Shipworld, he sees something very unlikely--another human. He winds up with a choice, either step through the workstation's portal to meet the human, or stay and try to tell John Bandicut--while losing track of this new human. He decides to step through the portal.

He meets the new human, who turns out to be John Bandicut's old girlfriend, Julie Stone, recently arrived on Shipworld from her own intense, near-fatal mission to defeat a lethal threat to Earth. He's no more able to communicate with her than with his other companions, and his clever plan of bringing her right back through the portal he arrived by to meet Bandicut is thwarted when the portal dumps them someplace else.

We learn, from both the people they meet up with, and from Jeaves' explanations to the main group, that communication between areas on Shipworld is becoming difficult, due to factional conflicts within the governing body. But there's a major new threat from the Mindaru, and Julie and Ik get recruited for one faction's urgent mission to deal with it, while Bandicut and the others get recruited for a different faction's urgent mission to deal with it.

Both plans are very, very dangerous. It's also possible they might be unintentionally in conflict with each other.

Everybody is trying to do the right thing; that doesn't mean it's going to be the right thing,. Or that it will work.

More people split off the main group, for what seem unavoidable reasons, and everyone also meets more people, of varied species, whom they will need to work with. They're all complex, interesting people, and first impressions don't tell the whole story on any of them. Shipworld, the Starstream, the ghoststream, the Heart of Fire nebula and the worlds within it, all contribute to a rich, varied, fascinating future cosmos that's a delight to explore.

There are reasons I wait, more or less patiently, for the next Chaos Chronicles book, and it has never been a disappointment. This is no exception.

Highly recommended.

Yes, yes, I received a free electronic galley of this book from the author, and am reviewing it voluntarily. I've also pre-ordered the published book, which will be hitting my Kindle about the time this review goes live.

I mean it. Highly recommended.

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