Stars Beyond: A better sequel

Stars Beyond by S.K. Dunstall science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsStars Beyond by S.K. Dunstall science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsStars Beyond by S.K. Dunstall

Stars Beyond (2020) is the sequel to sisterly writing duo S.K. Dunstall’s novel Stars Uncharted which Tadiana and I reviewed last year. We agreed that it was a Firefly-type story that was accessible and pleasant, but lacked originality. The good news, though, is that book two, Stars Beyond, is better.

Stars Beyond picks up where Stars Uncharted left off. The crew of The Road has a new spaceship (called Another Road) decked out with weapons. They’re still on the run from the corporate entities who are pursuing them for various reasons and have teamed up to capture them.

Unfortunately, Captain Roystan isn’t up to the challenge of leading his crew because his elderly body, which has been continuously modded to keep its youth, is starting to fail rapidly. Nika, the best body modder in the universe, can’t fix him without acquiring a very specific expensive machine that has the capability of modifying his genes in the right way. The crew can afford the machine, but if she orders it, she may tip off the bad guys who are searching for her… but if she doesn’t, then Roystan will die and she’ll be caught anyway… And so she decides to order it, which sets off a cascade of disastrous consequences.

Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Nika — a Justice Department operative named Alistair who lives on a harsh planet that’s being mined by a greedy and unscrupulous corporation. Alistair is worried about the fate of the colonists sent to mine the planet as well as the sentient beings who live there. He thinks Rika can help. So, he’s another person searching for Nika and, at first, his motivations are unclear.

Stars Beyond by S.K. Dunstall science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsFor the most part, Stars Beyond is fast-paced and exciting. There are fires, chases, disguises, captures, sacrifices, torture, shoot-outs, spaceship battles, big discoveries, daring escapes, last-second rescues, and even explosions.

There’s a bit too much talk about the specs of certain body-modding machines, which I found unnecessary and boring, the villains are a little overdone, smart characters do dumb things like talking about their plans in front of the wrong people, and the dynamics of moving in space is totally unrealistic. But the plot is entertaining.

The new protagonists are welcome additions and we learn more about the original characters, including the interesting backstories of Snow, Josune, and Roystan.

The ending of Stars Beyond is satisfying. The different plot threads and various mysteries come together nicely (if a little too easily). It’s also sweet.

Emily Woo Zeller narrates Penguin Audio’s edition of Stars Beyond. I wasn’t crazy about the way she narrated the story as if she was talking conspiratorially under her breath, but the dialogue was good and I like the voices she uses for the characters.

Published in January 2020. The crew of Another Road are back, closer than ever to the biggest score in the galaxy. . . if they can stay a step ahead of the Justice Department agents and Company men tracking them. An engineer with a fondness for weapons. A captain with no memory. An obsessive genemodder who loves to tinker. Meet the crew of Another Road. Josune, Roystan, and Nika have escaped the company thugs trying to kill them. They’ve gotten a new spaceship to replace The Road (after it was blown up underneath them). And their new ship is armed to the teeth with dangerous weapons, courtesy of Josune. All that’s left to do before they head out to find the legendary lode of transurides is to restore Roystan’s memory. To do that, they need to collect the genemod machine Nika has ordered. But first, they have to shake off the Justice Department agent and the Companies tracking them. It should be easy. They’ve done it before. What could possibly go wrong?

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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