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- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The latest continuation of the RCN series, this book moves past the constant Cinnabar-Alliance warring into a setting of uneasy peace. Outright, aggressive political and strategic maneuvering between the major powers and their pawns (for example, Leary's mission to the Bagarian Cluster in a previous book, the Alliance setting up a base on Yang further back) has been replaced by chaotic situations where seemingly minor border powers pursue their own objectives heedless of the risks that renewed war might bring. Unfortunately, a lot of the wild, desperate action so beloved in previous books has been replaced by rounds of meetings between a sometimes endless array of representatives, commissioners, and displaced former royalty. Far more care is required in the reading to catch all the subtlety of the plot, especially in the first half, and even so it somehow falls a little short of the usual standards of excitement. The second part of the book, dominated by a space combat action, is reasonably exciting fare with a few of the over-the-top moments and even gives Officer Mundy an absolutely hilarious one-liner in the middle of an absurdly tense situation. You'll know it when you see it.
Although, in a broad sense, Drake makes an attempt to develop and mature his two leading characters over the arc of the last 7 RCN books, little of that is apparent here except in the negative. Leary, the responsible, womanizing, charismatic young officer, has through his long-term relationship with Dorst turned into... a charismatic, responsible young officer, minus the womanizing. It may be natural for him to grow older but it's somewhat less interesting as well. Mundy continues to be, well, Mundy- sometimes, it's hard to tell if she is slowly becoming more accepting and connected to other people, through her friendship with Leary and almost sometimes maternal relationship to Cory, Cazelet, and Tovera. Or, if she is headed towards complete meltdown via a suicidal addiction to dangerous combat actions (which seems to be the opinion of her intelligence agency mentor). To compound this lack of character development, several minor plot points, such as the possible pre-human settlement, are introduced, briefly expounded on... and then lost. The "plot twist" (that might be an Extremely Obvious segue into the next novel) comes literally out of nowhere right at the very-very end of the book, and is simply delivered straight as an "Ok you RCN types are honorable so here is this thing I heard" deal. Maybe I should have seen it coming, but then again, Mundy didn't see it either.
Like many of the other RCN books, 'What Distant Deeps" is calling to me to reread, slower, when I have more time to pick out as much of the detail rather than get to the next chapter for the immediate pleasure of What Blows Up Next. I have a feeling it will be better on a second reading at the cost of a small lack of excitement the first time through.