Heaven’s War, by David S. Goyer & Michael Cassutt
After two simultaneous but separate missions to an unidentified object in Earth’s orbit go horribly wrong Zack Stuart is the only astronaut staying behind in its interior. Four of his colleagues and rivals are on their way back to earth, the rest have died on the object affectionately named Keanu.
Meanwhile on earth 187 random people have been picked up from the rival space stations in Houston and Bangalore by big flying orbs and are on their way to Keanu. Amongst those abducted are Zack’s 14 year old daughter Rachel, Gabriel Jones, the father of the now deceased astronaut who caused a disaster on Keanu and Pavak Radhakrishnan, the son of the commander of the Bangalore space ship who is safely on his way back to earth.
It is now very clear that Keanu is not an asteroid or planet but in fact a space-ship, one that had a good reason to travel to earth, one that wants to recruit humans into its war against a force that could destroy the universe and one that is starting to fail.
The humans on Keanu will have to adjust to their new living arrangements, learn how to survive on a space-ship that appears to want to accommodate them but still holds many dangers, marvels and nightmares. But most of all, they have to figure out a way to make it back to earth in order to protect their home from disaster.
Before I say anything else about this book let me state that if at all possible you should not read this book unless you have read its prequel: Heaven’s Shadow. The story in this book starts at the exact moment the first book ended, and although there are some references to what happened in the first book you need more background information than can be found here if you want to truly enjoy Heaven’s War.
And this truly is a story to enjoy. It is action packed, filled with suspense and with just about enough pure science-fictional fact.
Because the perspective in the story switches between the main characters the reader is introduced to the strange habitats on Keanu on several different levels, ranging from teenage girl, via mysterious alien to fully qualified scientist. It also means that the book is filled with cliff-hangers. Most chapters, and individual narratives, end on a pivotal moment forcing the reader to keep on reading. But since the chapters you need to read before you arrive at the resolution of your cliff-hanger all end on similar highs there is always this urge to keep on reading.
Another advantage of the alternating narrator set-up is that the reader gets an insight into characters and their motivations without the need for lengthy descriptions. The actions, thoughts and emotions as described by the characters give each of them their own, unique personality.
The space-ship, Keanu, is a marvel consisting of several habitats, all completely geared towards their individual and very diverse inhabitants. As small groups of humans explore various parts of Keanu, the reader gets an insight into the set up of the space-ship as well as the different life-forms it accommodates. Having said that, I did feel that a little more information about the non-human occupants and their role in the struggle against the common enemy would have been helpful. In fact, that lack of information in favour of action would be my one, minor, reservation about this book.
Overall though, this was a gripping space adventure and a true page-turner. This is also very much a story in the middle of a beginning and (as far as I know) the end in the next book. While the book starts where the first book ended, it also finishes at such a moment that the reader is left with no idea what exactly is going on or might be about to happen next. It will be a long wait for the third book and an answer to the questions this story has left the reader with.