The Risks of Dead Reckoning by Felicia Watson
"The Risks of Dead Reckoning" is a third and final instalment in the Lovelace Series. I was kindly provided with an ARC by the author in return for an honest review, but I will be damned if I don't get the entire trilogy in print!
The blurb reads:
"Naiche Decker is engaged! And no one is more surprised by that than her. Thoughts of romance are soon overshadowed by her current mission, which swiftly turns from routine, to intriguing, to deadly. The Lovelace responds to a distress call from unexplored space, seemingly from a crew who died 200 years ago. They trace the source to the most unlikely planet they've ever encountered. What they find is not only amazing, but treacherous – threatening the lives of all aboard the Lovelace. Decker's used to her own life being endangered, but her loved ones being imperiled is a new and wrenching experience."
When it comes to reviewing series of books, especially concerning subsequent parts, it's not my favourite thing to do. Don't get me wrong - I love talking about books. But I'm not particularly eager to spoil events for readers who did not catch up with them just yet or having to redact a lot of spoilers. One way or another, I find it painful.
Having said that - I want to talk about this book, so there will be some spoilers ahead.
Lovelace is on a mission to acquire a supply of kiatilium - a rare metal used to build stronger hulls of the ships. For that reason, it's in high demand, and every space-faring galaxy inhabitants are looking for a load for themselves. The familiar crew - lieutenant Naiche Decker, her fiancé and fellow pilot Talako Jacoway, her father and the Lovelace captain, her best human friend and CO, and her best canine friend, along with their friends and families are tasked with this routine assignment. Therefore, their minds are busy with down-to-Uniterrae problems, like wedding arrangements and, more importantly, will they have kids and where will they grow up? Naiche cannot imagine their future outside of Chiricahua Territory, but Talako would choose the Settlements instead. There is also an issue who will stay with the kids down on the Uniterrae? Naiche wants to prevent history from repeating itself since she felt abandoned when her father prioritised his career.
These tense work-life deliberations are interrupted by an unfamiliar energy transmission. It turns out to be a high-tech distress call from a centuries-old... ghosts. The contact comes from survivors of the starship Valiant, whose crew dies hundreds of years ago. Lovelace could neither ignore the distress call nor the mystery behind it and traced the beacon to planet Tolu. In the airborne welcoming committee, there are huge grudge-holding dinosaur-bird-things, and they don't play nice! They are equipped with powerful beaks, a corrosive spit, and a matching attitude. The ground welcoming committee is the supposed Valiant survivors, who behave less like the UDC officers they claim to be and more like children, and three factions of the native population of Tolu, who want nothing to do with the others. Ah, yes - there are also creepy veil-worms, mysterious all-powerful and more creepy providers Lignatians, and the worst of all - food supplies on Valiant.
Felicia Watson set high expectations regarding the plot and interweaved sociopolitical commentary in the previous books. This time the subjects she touches on are colonisation and the responsibilities that come with it, how the lines between vengeance and greed can blur, and when the morally just act can become a violation of ethical rights. These weighty problems are juxtaposed with Naiche's personal considerations about responsibility as a partner and a future parent (especially in the context of the mission and the unfolding events), as well as Matt's future career considerations.
On the first draft of this review, I noticed that a lot of critiques crept in. And not particularly constructive ones at that. Sure, one can say that there are situations where the answer to a problem came all too easily to the characters involved, or that one may want to delve deeper into the worldbuilding and alien sociopolitical setup, or that there was more to be explored in the weird and wonderful worlds.
Finally - I figured out why I was so pecking at The Risks of Dead Reckoning. All of that nitpicking spawned from one thing: I didn't want to leave the world of Uniterrae. Despite the closure the third book provides, I would love to see the continuation of the space adventures. I'll miss the warm fuzzy feeling inadvertently linked to the Lovelace and her crew.
-----The Risks of Dead Reckoning on Goodreads