In the first book, the purpose of lines 7 and 8 was unknown but as Lambert’s skills develop he can work out what they do. As he is now regarded as the eminent Linesman, Lambert comes to be the target of various schemes and not all of them are from the enemy factions.
Princess Michelle and her father, Emperor Yu, are rulers of the planet Lancia, one of the most powerful planets in the New Alliance. Not all members of the alliance are comfortable with the power Lancia can wield, while the Empower is not happy in Lancia’s recent downturn in fortune, which leads to a lot of diplomatic manoeuvring within the New Alliance. There are also diplomatic schemes in the other two factions; Redmond and the Gate Union, who is at war with the New Alliance while Redmond waits to see what happens.
Gate Union controls the jump gates which allow the spaceships to jump safely from one location to another. It’s essentially air traffic control for spaceships to avoid one spaceship jumping into the space currently occupied by something else like a planet or other spaceship. The resultant explosion is powerful enough to impact a whole star system. Gate Union want to protect the monopoly and want access to the alien spaceship which the New Alliance holds. If the alien spaceship had technology to avoid jumping into other objects they would see their whole business model collapse.
Another thing that has Gate Union worried is Lambert’s new found ability to tie several ships to the alien ship allowing the group to safely jump as a unit. Prior to this, all ships jumped individually due to the risk of collisions when emerging from the jump. This made military fleet activities almost impossible. New Alliance now has the means to do it which has a lot of people very worried.
So we have a backdrop of a lot of political manoeuvring, clandestine sabotage attempts, spies on all sides and the occasional military engagement. While all this is going on, Linesman Ean Lambert is developing his abilities to engage with the Lines while trying to avoid being kidnapped and killed. It all builds at a steady pace to a rather good conclusion. There are several plot twists, some of which are expected and some aren’t.
I must admit I enjoyed reading the series although I didn’t expect to. I’m not keen on magic when it’s used to get the plot out of a difficult corner it’s got itself into. The Lines on board the spaceships are, I think, tending towards magic as they become sentient and have strange powers. There’s no real explanation of how they work, they just do. In the first novel, Linesman Lambert feels the emotions of the Lines he’s working on. By the third novel, he’s having conversations with them. It seems they become more sentient the more people interact with them.
While there is a lot to like in the ‘Linesman’ series, I did find it odd that several major characters just seemed to fade away. One moment, they are having major bust-ups with Lambert and then they just get the odd mention. There isn’t any resolution to the issues that caused the bust-up or perhaps there are, but in a future novel? It’s an intriguing thought as there are enough loose ends for several more books. It’s something I will keep a lookout for.
I recommend the ‘Linesman’ trilogy to anyone who likes a good space opera but you really do have to read them in the published order. So far it has been one very good story divided into three volumes, so start at the beginning and work your way through. It’s very enjoyable!
(pub: ACE Books, 2016. 387 page paperback. Price: $7.99 (US), £ 6.50 (UK. ISBN: 978-0-425-27954-0)