The second book in Michael McCollum’s Antares series, Antares Passage, begins with the planning leading up to the mission to enter the Antares Nebula, the remnants of a supernova from 125 years prior to the first book, Antares Dawn. While the people of the Valeria system have been reunited with the rest of humanity, they find out they have missed an ongoing 125-year war between humanity and the Ryall, an alien centaur-like race seemingly bent on human destruction.
It has the usual political machinations as various factions try to get things to benefit them as much as possible, and the usual disbelievers and naysayers who try to gum up the work that needs to be done to get the project moving along, but eventually the mission is launched. In an effort to find a way to defeat the Ryall, Captain Richard Drake helps lead a coalition force through the foldpoint to Antares, both to find another way to reach Earth and try to find unknown passages into Ryall-held systems in order to take the battle to them instead of waiting for the Ryall to attack.
Antares Passage moves along at a quicker pace than the first book in the trilogy. I found the story to be more interesting, and I got my wish of having more interaction with the Ryall side. A significant portion of this volume deals with Drake and others getting to know and understand the Ryall better. There were also multiple chapters from the point of view of Ryall characters, and many of those characters were more interesting than the humans.
The speculative science is also interesting, especially since no human has ever been in the same system as a supernova. McCollum did a great job of presenting the science in ways which were not too technical but still captured the amazing nature of it all. A lot of thought was put into the world-building in this series. This shows through in the depth of the settings and in the alienness of the Ryall.
McCollum did a good job making the characters more interesting in this volume. Drake became less of a caricature and more believable in his role. Bethany, his fiancé, also was able to spread her wings and establish herself as the leading human expert on the Ryall. She became a second main character in Antares Passage in many ways, and a very strong one, too. She really bucked the overly-oppressive patriarchal system that had been established on her homeworld during the isolation. This isn’t a feminist book, by any means, but it was nice to see her come into her own.
Antares Passage is a solid second book in the trilogy, and it is sad that Del Rey didn’t ever publish the final volume. Whatever the reason for that, McCollum has since released it himself. I look forward to finishing the series and seeing how his writing style changed over the 15 years between the second and third volumes.
Release Date: December 1987 (USA)
ISBNs: 0345323149 (978034532314)
Publisher: Del Rey
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (some social drinking)
Language: 1 (occasional mild, deity)
Sexuality: 1 (some brief, implied sex)
Violence: 2 (some science fiction violence, death, intense space battles)