This is Alan K. Dell’s second novella and third book in the Augment Saga. It takes several of the characters we met in the previous novel (From The Grave of the Gods) and sets them on a new adventure several years after those events. You’ll definitionally need to have read From The Grave of the Gods before jumping into this short story. As a novella, this book is a fast read. The character setup is minimal since we were already introduced to the them, and the back-history, in the proceeding novel.
The book was well written and the pace of this short story kept me moving forward through the chapters. I loved how it explored the idea of a first flight with faster than light technology in a very believable way. The orbital mechanics and other scientific references are used correctly, but not in a textbook fashion. I got a very believable feel of this fictional world but was not hit over the head with an exposition of technical details. The scientific underpinnings of the story were blended well with the adventure and dialog in a way that kept the story moving, but hinted at well thought-out mechanics behind the scenes.
The adventure had a very “first flight” feel. It gave a feeling of uncertainty about the technology and the risk of failure which the first astronauts who went to orbit must have felt. At the end of several of the chapters I was compelled to keep reading even though it was late at night and I had expected to put the book down for the evening. By the way Alan, you owe me at least one lost hour of sleep! The story develops and expands on some very well implemented hard sci-fi rules, and does not violate them. I can see how the technology is setup here will be used to tell a great adventure among the stars in the next novel!
As with most well written short stories, my only regret is that it was a fast read. I kind of wished the adventure would continue, but this story was wrapped up in a satisfying way. I see how this episode fit the format of a short story, setting the scene for the next novel-length episode in this saga.