Whenever I start the second or later book in a series, I have a dilemma. Do I go back and re-read the first book(s), or just dive right into the latest release?
To help readers with this, I include a summary of the previous books. I try to make these funny, and have done this for all my novels.
BE WARNED! If you haven’t read the books being summarized, there are massive spoilers on these pages!
You can read the rest of the summaries here.
Let’s get to it.
In an announcer voice: “Last time, on Void Wraith…”
Commander Nolan has just been assigned to the UFC Johnston, an aging destroyer in the 14th fleet. The 14th is also known as “the underfunded 14th,” where careers are sent to die. The Johnston is commanded by Captain Dryker, an aging hero from the Eight-Year War with the Tigris. He’s tired, cantankerous, and has a serious discipline problem.
The Johnston is emerging from a sun, through something called a Helios Gate. The Helios Gate is at the center of a star, and opens a wormhole to a neighboring star. Starships that want to use the Helios Gate have to be able to survive the internal stresses inside a star, which they do using their inductive fields. This field channels the magnetic energy inside a star to form a bubble around the ship. The sun itself powers the field, so the deeper a vessel goes the stronger the field gets.
Make sense? If not, think of it like this: it’s a frigging Stargate in the middle of a sun.
The Johnston has arrived in the Mar Kona system, a human colony on the periphery of space. They’ve been dispatched because the colony has gone dark and OFI (the Office of Fleet Intelligence, known by the soldiers of the 14th as the Office of F*%cking Idiots) is demanding answers. Upon arrival, they find a debris field belonging to a Tigris science vessel.
There’s no reason for a Tigris science vessel to be there, and no sign of whoever or whatever destroyed it. Then a Tigris warship arrives, looking for the science vessel. They assume the Johnston is responsible for the destruction, and move to attack. Captain Dryker does something no real captain would do. Ever. He walks off the bridge in combat, leaving the untested Commander Nolan to run the combat. Fiction lets me get away with crap like this.
Unsurprisingly, Nolan pulls off a brilliant maneuver that Michael Bay will enjoy producing because there are plenty of pew pew BOOOOM sorts of things involved. The Tigris lose, and Captain Dryker sends Nolan down to the planet with a squad of Marines to find out why the citizens are gone. If you’ve played Mass Effect, by this point you were probably asking yourself how long it would be before EA sued me, because MAN did the plot of Destroyer look similar.
Nolan and company run into a new enemy. This enemy has an imperfect cloaking system, a lot like the one used in Halo and Predator. The enemy clashes with the Marines, and there are casualties on both sides. Unfortunately, the enemies explode when they die, so it’s difficult for Nolan to learn specifics about who or what they might be. They look like robots, but when Mills (handsome badass sniper dude) cores one through the chest they see orange blood spatter the trees.
Nolan and his Marines continue toward the distress signal they picked up in orbit. They find it in the middle of a set of ancient Primo ruins. Primo are the first race (primo means first in Latin), and have been on the galactic stage for tens of thousands of years. Their empire has waned, and as it faded they abandoned many habitable worlds, which races like humanity are all too happy to snap up.
Anyway, it turns out the distress signal was set by Lena, a Tigris scientist. Tigris are a race of bipedal cat people. Why cat people when they’ve been used everywhere from Thundercats to the Kilrathi? Because I have two house cats named Izzy and Fizgig, and I was looking for an excuse to write about them.
Lena is investigating the Primo ruins, because after laying dormant for over twenty millennia they are starting to power up. She tells Nolan that while she was investigating, her team was attacked. A strange blue ship showed up, and took her team as well as all the citizens of Mar Kona. She has no idea why, and was only able to hide because the Primo ruins blocked the enemy scans.
Nolan realizes Lena is important, and starts escorting her back to his shuttle. On the way, they see the strange blue ship, which can apparently cloak just like the shock troops (later called Judicators). The ship blows up the Primo ruins, and Nolan narrowly escapes.
We flip to Dryker, who gives a report to his superior, Admiral Mendez. Mendez is upset at Dryker for walking off the bridge during combat, but that turns out to be a smokescreen. He’s really calling because Dryker is being hung out to dry. The Tigris claim Dryker blew up their science vessel, and humanity is turning him over for prosecution. The case will be tried by the Primo. Before the call ends, Mendez also asks if Dryker recovered any artifacts from the ruins (dun dun dun). We realize immediately that he’s a little too interested. Plus, the guy has a thick black beard and smokes a cigar. We already know he’s the villain.
Dryker decides not to turn himself over, and has Nolan interrogate their Tigris prisoner. Lena was on Mar Kona because she’s an anthropologist specializing in Primo ruins. Several other worlds have been attacked by these mysterious aliens, and she wants to know why. She agrees to help Dryker find answers, and suggests they start on a Tigris world containing a similar set of ruins to those on Mar Kona.
Right after they arrive at Purito, a Tigris warship exits the Helios Gate. This is no privateer, but rather the most feared commander in Leonis Pride, Mighty Fizgig. Fizgig is based on my 16-year-old house cat, who is too old to care about your bullshit. She (the commander, not my cat) contacts Dryker, warning him that she’s going to board his vessel and slaughter his crew. Dryker does his best to fight back, but her ship is both larger and more powerful. He’s clearly losing.
Meanwhile, Nolan and Lena are trying to find whatever artifact might be hidden in the ruins. While they’re exploring, the Tigris send a ground team to stop them. That team is opposed by Sergeant Hannan and her Marines. They square off, locked in a brutal fight. Hannan knows she can’t hold the Tigris off forever, but is determined to go down swinging.
Then Fizgig receives a message that a nearby Tigris colony is under attack. She pulls back, letting the Johnston go. Fizgig arrives just in time to see the strange alien vessel cloaking. She’s now aware there is a new player in the game, but is honor bound to hunt down and kill Dryker rather than investigate.
Lena and Nolan recover an ancient Virtual Intelligence (VI) from the ruins, but can’t understand the dialect it uses. Lena is only able to translate two words: Void Wraith. They take the VI to a Primo library, hoping the scholars there can translate it. The Primo do, reluctantly giving the VI back to Lena and Nolan. Because they’re spiteful bastards and know the Johnston is being hunted, they alert Primo authorities. Dryker orders Nolan back to the Johnston, and they get ready to flee.
They’re too late. Three Primo carriers show up. The Johnston has no prayer, but quickly realize they aren’t the target. The carriers attack the library, though the Johnston takes some serious collateral damage while escaping. There’s some pew pew pew, boom, and then the Johnston flees to the Helios Gate. The library is blown up, and Nolan and Dryker realize why: someone was trying to keep the ancient Primo VI from spreading. The library made a copy, and someone didn’t want that copy getting out.
Meanwhile, we learn that Admiral Mendez is a villain. It’s terribly shocking. I mean, he has a beard and cigar, remember? We totally didn’t see this coming. His villainy-ness is discovered by his daughter, Kathryn Mendez. Apparently Kathryn is the reason why Nolan got sent to the 14th, but we don’t know why because the asshole author wants you to read Exiled to find out.
Kathryn learns that her father is working with someone he calls Bruce (Doctor Reid), and that both are clearly working for a third party. It’s also revealed that the Primo and Tigris governments have been infiltrated as well. They’re working on something big, and it sounds like it will be bad for everyone. Kathryn lets Nolan know, and he brings the information to Dryker. Kathryn overheard something about the Ghantan system, which doesn’t show up on any known star chart. Dryker doesn’t seem surprised, because he’s old and wise and stuff. He also has a beard, but his beard is white so we know he’s not a villain.
Lena realizes the Primo VI they recovered might recognize the system. Now that it’s been translated, they can talk to it, and she learns that it knows all about the strange blue ship. The ship belongs to the Void Wraith, who wiped out the ancient Primo empire. The Primo VI is very familiar with the Ghantan system, and explains that it was a mining facility, and also contained a Primo shipyard.
The Johnston is still heavily damaged, but limps to the Ghantan system to see what’s there. It turns out there’s a factory building Void Wraith ships, and a big ass bomb. Uh-oh. Nolan and Dryker discuss a plan, and Nolan suggests they go flash their asses to the Goram law (go watch Firefly if you don’t get that reference). The Johnston uses the Quantum Network to alert the humans, then flies to the Tigris home world.
Dryker talks mad shit over an open channel, and the Tigris start to pursue. That’s exactly what he wants, as the goal is to get the whole Tigris fleet to the Ghantan system. It seems to be working, but then the Tigris admiral tells his ships not to pursue. He sends one vessel, Fizgig’s Claw of Tigrana. Most of the Tigris think this decision strange, but no one does anything.
Fizgig follows Dryker to the Ghantan system and boards his vessel. Dryker surrenders unconditionally, and when Fizgig reaches the bridge, points out the big ass Void Wraith factory and bomb floating like right there. Fizgig is all, umm…that looks bad. We should do something about that. Before they can, the Void Wraith attack, and begin boarding the Johnston.
Packs of Judicators roam the corridors of the ship, brawling with Marines. All of our heroes step up, and manage to converge on the bridge. They realize they can’t win. There are six Void Wraith ships in the system, and just the single ship that’s boarded the Johnston is handily kicking their collective asses. So Dryker comes up with a daring Hail Mary plan, because he has a white beard. He knows the hero’s plan always works at the end, or readers get pissed off and send you hate mail.
He orders Nolan, Fizgig, Izzy (my other house cat), Hannan, and Edwards to EVA (that’s Extravehicular activity—going outside the ship) over to the Void Wraith vessel, a harvester-class ship whose troops have boarded the Johnston. They’re basically doing an end run to take over the enemy ship, since all the enemy’s troops are on the Johnston. Those who stay behind will hold off the Void Wraith, though they will likely die in the attempt.
Nolan and company head to the Void Wraith vessel. They kick a lot of Judicator ass, including a twelve-foot-tall Alpha Judicator. Unfortunately, that Judicator squishes Edwards. We’re not sure if he’ll live yet. The author hasn’t killed anyone up to this point. Is he a dick? We don’t know.
Back on the Johnston, Captain Dryker grabs Mills, Juliard (a comm tech), and the Tigris first mate, Khar. They fight their way toward the Johnston’s main gun. Dryker wants to sabotage it, so he can detonate the ship. That will kill all the Judicators aboard, improving Nolan’s chances. Along the way they get into a simple skirmish, but during the fight, the causeway Mills is standing on gets hit.
He falls to his death in the most unheroic way possible, despite the fact that he was a total badass. Yup, the author is a dick. I still get hate mail about Mills’s death, but there was a method to my madness. I needed to show you people that I was serious. Not, like, “George R.R. Martin, kill half the cast” serious, but that anyone could die.
Back to Nolan. He reaches the bridge, which has a VI very similar to the one they liberated from the Primo ruins. The VI monologues like a Disney villain, talking about the Eradication and how Nolan has no prayer. Judicators show up trying to kill them, but Nolan and Hannan hold them off while Lena removes the ship’s VI and plugs in the one they got from the ruins. The new VI takes over and merges with the ship, giving them full control.
Around this time, Dryker and Khar set the self destruct and flee for the Claw of Tigrana. They make it aboard, but the acting captain is a real douche. He wants to lock up Dryker, instead of listening to him. So Khar snaps his neck and takes over.
A new fleet emerges from the Helios Gate. It’s the Tigris! They’ve come to help Fizgig. Khar tells them about the Void Wraith, and they join the fight. It’s an all-out brawl, and it’s not clear who’s going to win. Then a human fleet arrives! Except it’s under Mendez’s control, and is here to help the Void Wraith. It starts attacking Tigris vessels. Khar passes out from blood loss, and Dryker takes command of the Tigris vessel.
A Void Wraith vessel de-cloaks right next to the Claw. It’s Nolan! He explains that they’ve figured out where the bomb is being sent. The Void Wraith want to blow up Theras Prime, decapitating the Primo empire. He asks Dryker to flee there and warn the Primo. Dryker reluctantly agrees. He pilots the Claw into the sun.
Nolan and his crew come up with a desperate plan to stop the bomb. If they can open a connection using the Helios Gate, then destroy the limiter that controls a Gate’s ability to open and close, they can prevent that connection from being closed and the Void Wraith won’t be able to make a connection to Theras Prime. Of course they pull it off, because heroes. The bomb blows up the Ghantan system, plus the sun Nolan connects to.
This strands Nolan until he and his crew can reach another Helios Gate, which will take four months. Nolan also deals with Edwards. It turns out Judicators are made from people, and Edwards can be turned into one. If he isn’t, he’ll probably die. Nolan orders him made into an Alpha Judicator, because, really, if you were going to be one wouldn’t you want to be the twelve-foot-tall one with massive cannons? Hell, yes.
In the epilogue, we check in with Dryker, because there’s one final question remaining for the reader: was I enough of a dick to kill Khar? No. Khar lives! The Primo rescue Dryker and Khar.
On to Void Wraith!