Book Title: Masada’s Gate: A Space Opera Noir Technothriller – The SynCorp Saga: Empire Earth, Book 2
Publication Date: May 9, 2019
Available on: Amazon as an eBook
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 4.75 out of 5 Stars
Picking up directly after the events of “Valhalla Station”, Ruben Qinlao is on the run, staying one step ahead of Cassandra while an injured Tony Taulke recovers. Stacks Fischer is trying to recover after the traumatic events from the previous novel and is tasked to help the remaining SynCorp heads fight against Cassandra. Kwazi Jabari, now free from being a SynCorp mouthpiece for propaganda, has aligned himself with Cassandra’s Soldiers of the Solar Revolution.
Cassandra has thrown down the gauntlet and wants to bring all the heads of SynCorp’s Five Factions down. Having already taken out two, she’s gunning for Adrianna Rabh at Valhalla Station and Gregor Erkennen, whose power center lies at Masada Station orbiting Titan, Saturn’s moon. Filling the media with her propaganda, controlling all aspects of SynCorp’s communications, she presents herself as someone who wants to remove SynCorp’s control from over all of humanity.
She forcibly demonstrates this desire through attacking the other SynCorp heads, utilizing the superior firepower of her acolytes. The most intriguing question here is whether she is as benevolent and as ideal as she says she is or is there a more sinister agenda hiding underneath the surface. Will humanity buy what she is trying to sell?
Based on her actions, the reader can see more of her agenda for themselves here. Cassandra is half-human and half artificially intelligent and makes for an unusual and intriguing antagonist that has origins from the previous trilogy. This deadly combination makes her difficult to defeat and SynCorp has their hands full trying to fend her off.
Ruben is on the run hiding in the Darkside section of the Moon’s settlement. Trying to keep Tony alive while Cassandra’s forces chase them, it makes for an enthralling game of cat and mouse where Ruben must use every ounce of determination and cunning he has to stay one step ahead, whatever it takes.
Kwazi grows more here than he did in the previous novel. Realizing that while he has switched sides, he’s still a mouthpiece, just for the other side now and with stronger motivations than before. I like the decisions he made towards the end of this novel and how he’s smartened up a lot more in a very short period. It’s also a nice payoff from the downward spiral he entered in “Valhalla Station”. There was one aspect of his part of the plot and how it tied into Cassandra’s propaganda that seemed a little off to me from a technological point of view.
Stacks, once again, steals the show for me. He’s called in to protect Masada Station, its genius inhabitants, and its cutting edge technological secrets. He demonstrates some growth as well as he grieves in his own way after what happened in the previous novel. He also faces his most difficult challenges yet despite the odds arrayed against him. From an enemy who likes to use unconventional methods to dispatch his victims to enemy soldiers storming the gates, his uses his cleverness and intelligence to full advantage here, showing why he’s lasted so long in the enforcer game.
My second favorite after Stacks is a new character, Bekah Franklin. One of Gregor’s most trusted and most adept department heads, we see the emotional side of her as she cares for her dying grandfather. But it’s when the station is under attack is when we see her fierceness and her indomitable spirit as Cassandra tries to take control of Masada Station and its secrets.
The Masada Station portions of this novel are its most riveting scenes. From a complex and ingenious plan to keep Cassandra at bay to the strategic cyber attacks on Masada, this storyline was the most gripping in the novel. From the atmospheric effects the author used to set the scenes to the heightened emotions, the thick tension, and the high stakes, I raced through these pages the most, the hairs on the back of my neck electrified from the action.
One of these scenes also has the best, most appropriate and most epic use of Richard Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” music. It’s an excellent, moving and cinematic scene that made me fist-pump the air at how it was used. I also like also little tidbits of world history sprinkled throughout this novel, as it enriches the narrative and demonstrates how humanity learns from its past while moving towards its future.
This is probably the best second-novel-in-a-trilogy I’ve read in a long time. At least, since I read “Cassandra’s War”, the second novel from the first trilogy in the SynCorp Saga. Most times, second novels can serve as filler and don’t move the story along much, saving all the good stuff for the third novel in the trilogy. But here, there are lots of thrills, important developments and exhilarating moments that move the novel along quickly, making you wonder where the story is going and what is going to all these characters next.
There are plenty of little seeds being planted here that I think will grow and gain prominence by the final novel in this trilogy. There was one minor plot point from the first novel that really impressed me, as it transformed into something much more major and insidious here. It’s so surprising, the ramifications of this reveal will be felt in the next novel. And the ending sets the stage for the final novel in such a way that I cannot wait to see how the overarching storyline plays out from here.
The SynCorp Saga will eventually be comprised of three trilogies, with each one taking place a generation after the last. This is book two in the second trilogy and while it can be read independently of the previous trilogy, you need to read “Valhalla Station” the first book in this trilogy to get a strong understanding of what’s going on here. That being said, it adds a lot more depth and enhances the enjoyment of this novel if you know the backstory of events and characters from all four previous novels in the SynCorp series.
This was a fantastic novel with lots of surprises, suspense, sci-fi action, and unexpected twists and turns. I eagerly await the final novel in this sensational trilogy.
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