At last, the much-anticipated sequel to Laura E. Reeveís first Major Ariane Kedros novel, Peacekeeper, is here: Vigilante. Ariís space opera story continues as she once again faces the prospect of setting off a Temporal-Distortion (TD) weapon and destroying another solar system.
The first time that happened, she was obeying military orders and dropped her ship from real space into N-space just as the time-buoy destroying bomb went off - and she didnít know it was a TD bomb until it was too late to do anything about it. In Vigilante, though, misogynistic Terran sect members led by the Al Qaeda-like Abram Rouxe want to use Ariís considerable space piloting skills to annihilate the G-145 solar system where she and Matt Journey, whom she works for as an N-space pilot, discovered a non-Minoan time buoy and have staked a claim. A partner in Journeyís company, Aether Explorations, Ari pilots the Aethorís Touch for him when sheís not being called back into active duty by Colonel Owen Edones.
The assumption of the Terrans and the Autonomists (Ari is an Autonomist) is that when they are set off, TD weapons will cause the sun of whatever solar system theyíre in to go supernova, and that TDs will also destroy the time buoys vital to traveling from one solar system to another extremely quickly, similar to the notion of wormholes in other SF novels. The technology behind the buoys is alien, and until Matt and Ari discover one in the G-145 solar system, the buoys are believed to be the sole monopoly of the Minoans, introduced in Peacekeeper.
Itís against the Phaistos Protocols to explode TD weapons and would be a breach of the Pax Minoica, a peace brokered by the Minoans between the Terrans and the Autonomists. To the Terrans, who had colonized the solar system Ura-Guinn in which Ari exploded a TD weapon in Peacekeeper, Ari is a war criminal. The Minoans respect her, referring to her as the Destroyer of Worlds. They used her negotiating skills in Peacekeeper, though it almost cost Ari her life.
She feels tremendous guilt over what happened and feels she deserves to be punished because millions of people died. As the heroine of Reevesí series, Ari does indeed act heroically in helping to keep the peace in the first book and in foiling the terroristsí plans in Vigilante. Thatís what makes Ari so intriguing - sheís not a typical military SF heroine, who might feel as if she were on the side of all thatís right, moral, and good in the universe. She is morally conflicted, which makes her more realistic.
Ari lives in a time where solar systems are often the jurisdiction and property of whatever large spaceship arrives there first and lays claim to it. The Pilgrimage III has jurisdiction over G-145 as Vigilante opens. Abram Rouxe is trying to fulfill the sayings and prophecies of the sectís dead leader, Qesan Douchel. He also wants to get revenge on the Minoans for using a weapon that rendered the men of Douchelís sect sterile. Abram does not recognize his son, Tahir, as his true son; though Tahir was born of Abramís wife, Abram is not Tahirís genetic father. Out of fear of his father, Tahir nonetheless goes along with Abram and the sectís plans, attending college on Terra to become a doctor. Tahir gains control of test codes for a TD weapon and steals one for Abram to use. Itís a complex relationship; Tahir hates his father as well as fearing him but still obeys his fatherís will.
The Terrans and Autonomists have to work together with the Minoans to try to prevent another Ura-Guinn from happening. Traditional enemies must come together to battle a common foe, and I also liked this aspect of Vigilante. We get to see other sides of characters like SP (State Prince) Parmet from Peacekeeper, who kidnapped and tortured Ari and got her to sign over some of the rights to the artifact she and Matt found. He is drugged and tortured by the terrorists for information much as he did to Ari. Even his eleven-year-old son, Chander, is tortured by Abramís men, to gain information from Parmet. When both he and Ari are imprisoned in the same cell by the terrorists, they have to set aside the past to try to defeat the terrorists and prevent the TD weapon from being set off.
Vigilante is a page-turner and a very good sequel to Peacekeeper. I still like Peacekeeper better because it focused on Matt and Ari more than Vigilante does. In Vigilante, much of the focus is on new characters like Master Sergeant Joyce, and David Ray Pilgrimage. These characters are important ones in Vigilante: David Ray and Matt Journey escape in a pod after the Pilgrimage III is taken over by Abramís people, and they are eventually rescued by the Minoans; Joyce organizes a force to retake the Pilgrimage III. I liked these characters and others that Reeve introduces, but although Ari is still the main heroine, she doesnít play as large of a role as she does in Peacekeeper.
Iím speaking in terms of page count, anyway - she does save the day and kick terrorist butt, but other characters, because of Vigilanteís epic scope, of necessity take up a lot of the plot and the novelís pages. Laura E. Reeve continues to grow as a writer, as this novel is more expansive than the first. A potential drawback is that by introducing new characters, thereís the risk of not focusing on the original main characters enough to satisfy fans of previous books. Regardless, Vigilante is an excellent book Iíd recommend to fans of the military SF genre.