Earth Ascendant by Sean Williams

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Imre Bergamasc is the leader of the Returned Continuum, the organisation that has sprung up in the wake of the Slow Wave that wiped out the Forts and order in the galaxy. He is working his way from world to world rallying the planetary governments to join his cause in the hope that the galaxy can return to some sort of order.

While on his way to Dussehra his signal is hijacked and a message is given to him: return to Earth. However, he first must put in an appearance on Dussehra and bring the planet into the Returned Continuum. Once this is done the return to Earth is imminent and answers to his questions await – but are they what he is hoping for?

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Earth Ascendant is the sequel to Saturn Returns, a book that I enjoyed quite a bit considering the time span and politics involved. I was seriously hoping the story would continue the way we were left at the end of that book. Alas, this was not to be the case.

Many millenia have passed since the events in Saturn Returns and Imre has become the leader of the Returned Continuum. While trying to rebuild the galaxy to its former glory he continues to look for clues of the Luminous and the Barons, two organisations that appear to be involved with the events leading up to and fololowing the Slow Wave. If the story had continued along these lines it would have created a solid follow up to the first book, but what we are left with is a story that feels more filler than sequel. Standing at just shy of 280 pages should mean a focused and relevant follow-on to Saturn Returns rather than the side tracked story we get.

In the first book the time span was something I found enjoyable and relevant to the story, but this time around it jumps forward too quickly. It appears that jumping about millenia at a time is no big deal, even the 20,000 years between Imre’s time at Dussehra and his return to Earth is pretty much pushed to a side. I can fully understand the implications of the society of the Astropolis universe because of the time spans involved, but it just doesn’t feel as integrated this time around.

Much of the story itself, as I said earlier, comes across as a side event in the overall story arc rather than closely continuing from the end of Saturn Returns. This doesn’t mean that nothing is relevant, just most of it feels like filler. I thought that Cenotaxis, the novella set between Saturn Returns and this book, would be relevant to the overall story in some way, but it isn’t – it just chronicles another event that Imre went through (it’s still a damn good read though and you really should check it out) – a similar feeling to this book.

So, in summary, Earth Ascendant feels like a half-story in the overall arc of Astropolis. It would have benefited from being more focused and more closely related to Saturn Returns in terms of continuing story. It does show this at times, it just doesn’t do it enough. A big shame, because even though I really enjoyed reading this I just can’t recommend it as an effective part of the series at the moment – it may well be worth reading along with the final volume, should that prove to be better.

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