Stefan Vucak continues his action-paced science fiction series with this novel, which takes his much-manipulated protagonist, First Scout Terrllss-rr on an Earthbound adventure. For millennia the Serrll Combine has maintained a secret observation post on Earth’s moon. There has been an occasional visit to the blue planet, but nothing official. However, two events are about to change that: a fly-over of the Moon by an Earth observation probe that spies the Serrll base, and the arrival of an Orieli warship with news that Earth’s little corner of space is about to be invaded by a machine intelligence even more powerful than they are.
Meanwhile, Terr is doing wet-work for the Serrll’s intelligence service, utilizing the deadly abilities he was given during his sojourn on the Wanderer planet Anar’on. To say he isn’t happy about his work is an understatement, but there seems to be little he can do about it. He is sent to the Moon base, supposedly as a liaison with the Orieli, but there are machinations behind the scenes he knows nothing about, including one that could mean his death at the hands of his bond-brother Dharaklin. Terr crash-lands on Earth during what should have been a routine training flight and falls into the hands of a military commander bent on learning all he can about Orieli’s technology.
Mr. Vucak has created a complex background world for his works, filled with politicians who make Machiavelli look like a member of the ACLU. He places his hero in the middle of the mess, gifting him with a power for destruction that would seem to make him almost invincible, then balances it by creating a man who is at once a hardened killer and one who wants nothing more than to spend time with the woman he loves.
Indeed, so complex is the background that some of the characters could do with a bit more introduction when first met. Presumably, those who have read Mr. Vucak’s first novel will recognize them, but those who begin their reading with this book will likely wish they could have had a bit more background, particularly on the major characters.
That quibble aside, With Shadow and Thunder is an extremely well written, totally involving book with characters that refuse to lie still on the pages. They are as complex as the events and political maneuverings that drag them willy-nilly into places and situations they would clearly have preferred to avoid. Science fiction fans who like nothing better than an engrossing action-filled story, set in a world as clearly defined as their own, will definitely want to add this book to their to-be-read list.
Elizabeth K. Burton for Blue Iris Journal Reviews