A masterful expansion of the Oort Federation saga.
To the Stars is the second installment in the Oort Federation series, and the sequel to The Icicle, which I read earlier this year. Like many Sci-Fi series, it is essential that you read book #1 before reading book #2. The characters, the villains, the construction of the universe, and the technological elements of the story would all be confusing to a reader trying to pick up the story here in the second book.
For readers who enjoyed The Icicle, Mr. Williscroft takes all the plot lines and technological advances of that story and expands them as Braxton Thorpe, Daphne, Kimberly, and the other heroes (and e-heroes) head out to explore the galaxy, starting with the 84 light year trip to the Aster system in their FTL combo MERT-MBH ships, carrying along their portals, e-disks, hyper-disks, and the amazing abilities of uploaded humans and their Oort federation companions. And, of course, Max, eMax, and Maxter. (If you didn’t understand that, please see paragraph 1.) All the scientific and technological advancements introduced in book #1 evolve to their logical conclusions, limited only by the author’s extensive imagination.
The story explores the political, social, and intellectual development of the ancient Asterian societies on Rogan and Frohlich, making astute observations about how the two very different governments and societies work. There is still the villainous Russian oligarch, some twists involving the Oort, and the challenge of making contact with a new civilization that may think you are marauding invaders and not friendly trading partners. The action moves quickly, there are numerous side stories (including the challenge of terraforming Mars for human habitation), and plenty of character relationships to track through the sprawling narrative. It’s a Sci-Fi epic in the making, and it’s not over yet.
I liked the read, although it is not without some weak points. Several subplots don’t seem to lead anywhere important (although there might be connections coming in future books). The scientific and technological advancements, and major advancements of the plot, move at lightning speed, even when it seems implausible. There is never a real sense of peril for the heroes, despite the author’s attempt to create a viable villain. And the author sometimes dazzles the reader with his extensive knowledge of physics, chemistry, and technology beyond the point where some readers may prefer a little less science and a little more fiction. These minor issues do not significantly besmirch the very well-written and well-edited volume that expands the Oort universe and sets up more exciting stories to come.
Fans of Mr. Williscroft and fans of book #1 will be happy to get their next taste of this universe and will be anxiously awaiting the next installment.