My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the second book in The Academy series and I loved it. Hutch, the space ship pilot from the first novel, is back, a number of years later, still piloting ships around for the Academy.
A back plot. An earth-like planet is found and a group of scientists found to explore it, but they’re nearly all killed by bird-like creatures. One scientist named Nightingale remained alive. Fast forward twenty years. In the same system, this same earth-like planet is about to collide with a huge planet floating through space destroying everything in its path and the smaller planet is going to explode. Naturally, the Academy had sent a team of scientists up to view this once in a lifetime phenomena and then the unthinkable occurs — evidence of civilization turns up. A tower is found buried in ice. A scan is completed and entire cities are found buried beneath the ice. It’s important to find out what civilizations lived there, what happened to them, what they were like, etc., before the planet explodes. Unfortunately, the scientific ship doesn’t have a lander, so there’s no way they can make it to the planet’s surface. However, Hutch is in a ship nearby with a few other people, including Nightingale, and they’re ordered to the planet’s surface to explore and gather as much evidence as possible in their lander. So they do. In the meantime, another ship has appeared, carrying gawkers, including one insufferable Gregory MacAllister, a writer, editor, and all around snob, who agrees to a young writer’s request to go to the surface to conduct an interview. So they join Hutch, who is none to happy to have them.
Hutch finds some really good stuff. But the big planet is approaching and wreaking havoc with the weather. There’s an earthquake, and MacAllister’s lander falls down a new crack in the ice, wrecking. He and the female reporter take off in Hutch’s, only to crash land a short distance later. She dies, as does one of Hutch’s crew. That’s two landers. They need another one to get off the planet. An emergency signal is sent out and yet another ship is contacted by the Academy with instructions to go to their aid with their lander. However, they are sabotaged by a bigwig on board, who releases the lander so they won’t have to go, and so he can go to his precious dig on another planet which is oh so much more important than people’s lives.
What the hell are they going to do? Nightingale suggests their only chance may be to hike the 200 kilometers across difficult terrain with alien animals that want to eat them to find the old lander his old crew abandoned with the hope that it would still work. So they go off. And are attacked. And lose another crew member. And during this journey, MacAllister learns to become human, which is refreshing. And Hutch displays her exceptional leadership qualities. Meanwhile, the ship’s captains are meeting with scientists to see if anything else can be done. Seems like there’s one more long shot and it’s got to work, because the old lander won’t have enough power to get out of orbit. An alien object has appeared. It’s many kilometers long and has a net at the end of it with an asteroid caught in it. They decide to cut it up and weld it into a scoop, so Hutch can literally fly into it and be scooped up in this object. So volunteers from the ships learn to weld and go out into outer space and do the job, all the while with time running down. The two worlds are about to collide.
Hutch and one of the girls make it to the lander and it still works, so they take off. They need some technical stuff left back at the tower scavenged from their old landers, so they take off for it. However, Marcel, their ship commander informs them that the tower is about to be completely submerged in water due to the planet’s ongoing issues. They make it back and sure enough, it’s submerged and they’re screwed, so they head back to recover MacAllister and Nightingale. Then they head for a high area. They’re told of the scoop plan and they hope, oh, they hope. But it seems to unlikely. They’ll have seconds to do it before the scoop leaves the rendezvous area. To top matters off, the Academy has found another area on top of a mountain that they want explored — with the worlds about to collide — while waiting for the scoop to be completed, so the lander heads off to the mountain and they encounter a flat surface on top of the mountain and evidence of civilization. It appears that two life forms were on the planet — hawks and crickets. It appears that the hawks appeared out of nowhere to save the crickets with their own scoop thousands of years ago. What happened to them? No one will ever know. Some stuff happens. The action is breath taking. Finally it’s time, so they head off to meet the scoop. Only to have the net on the scoop tear when a meteor field rips through it. Man, will nothing work? Are they saved? I’m not going to say because I don’t want to give away the ending. I want you to read it for yourself. But I thought this book packed a lot more action into it than its predecessor and I was glad for that because I got occasionally bored with the first one. I saw character development here, character depth, science at work, alien culture, space ships — hey, it’s good sci fi! I’ve already got all of the other books in the series and I’m already looking forward to reading the third one. Definitely recommended.