Hera 2781 And Hestia 2781 by Janet Edwards (book review).

A good Science Fiction writer will have spent time building worlds and making sure that the technology aspects are, if not accurate (who knows what developments are around the corner) are at least plausible. Once the story the developmental work was designed to support has been told, the author has a number of directions they can go in. A new idea may require a whole set of different parameters which do not fit with the original concept so requiring the world-building to begin again.

Alternatively, the next novel can be set in a future with the same tech developments. Then the dilemma becomes different. Should the story involve totally new characters in a different time and place making the new book compatible with the earlier research but having no other connection or should the new story have either characters that are linked to or reference those in the first books? Then, should the new work be a prequel or a sequel?

Anyone who is familiar with Janet Edwards work will be aware that she has considered all these approaches. In her first trilogy, ‘Earth Girl’, ‘Earth Star’ and ‘Earth Flight’, the key to the situation was the development of Portal Technology which has enabled the over-populated Earth to spread out into the galaxy. Her ‘Hive Mind’ series took a very different approach to the population issue, with the swarms confined in vast structures providing for all their needs. The ‘Scavenger Exodus’ series is set more than three hundred years earlier soon after the invention of the portal technology when humanity was well into its colonisation programme. These books deal with those left behind.

With ‘Hera 2781 And Hestia 2781’, a volume comprising a novella and a novel, Edwards has elected to make this a prequel to the ‘Earth Girl’ series. For readers of that trilogy, some of the characters and the basic set up will be familiar. In a deviation from her usual approach, Edwards relates these stories from the point of view of a male character.

He is Drago Tell Dramis, a newly qualified pilot of a small, fast, fighting one-man spaceship. He is assigned to a flight of ships, one of which is piloted by his cousin Jaxon with whom he has long-standing issues that threaten to distract from the job. In the first part of the book, the novella, ‘Hera 2781’ (the number refers to the year), the flight is unexpectedly reassigned to the planet Hera which lies in the path of a world-destroying comet. Drago and Jaxon are part of a huge operation to try and smash or divert the comet’s core. It is a novella that is full of action and introduces the characters that play major roles in the novel ‘Hestia 2781’.

The population of Hestia is engaged in a civil war with multiple factions. While Drago isn’t assigned to the planet, the situation there spills out into events he is involved with, so this conflict simmers in the background sometimes erupting in his vicinity. At the start of this section, Drago is in hospital recovering from injuries inflicted by fragments of the Hera comet. Both he and Jaxon are being rewarded for their actions by promotion and medals, neither of which Drago thinks he deserves. This puts him in conflict with his father and discovers there other diplomatic factors in play. Since most of the ships were destroyed or damaged in the Hera situation, Drago and his wing have to travel by portals to their next assignment, Earth. On the way, they get mixed up with a violent protest by one of the Hestia factions and Drago is injured again.

On Earth, since they currently have no ships, the flight is assigned to helping the solar array teams refurbish the panels that provide Earth with its power. Readers of ‘Earth Girl’ will know that most of the inhabitants of Earth are people for whom off-world travel is deadly as immune system issues means that they can only survive on humanity’s home planet. Keeping the lights on is essential. Shortly after arrival, Jaxon goes AWOL and Drago has to find him. This results in him being made aware of family secrets that have been kept from everyone except a handful.

Edwards is at her best when her characters are involved in action and their personalities come to the fore. While there is a lot of action here, there are also slower passages. It is important for Drago to know exactly how the solar array works and what the problems are. Any newbie would be given the same induction, but here it slows down the story. Likely, some of the information will be needed in the next novel, ‘Array 2781’. The same problem arises while Drago is being apprised of the family secrets and when Jaxon explains why he dresses as a Roman soldier (read the book if you want to find out).

For those new to Edwards’ books, this is a good place to start as everything needed for understanding is here. Treating ‘Earth Girl’ as a sequel for this sequence will keep the surprises coming. Does Edwards write as well from the male perspective as she does the female? Not quite. This, though, is still a welcome addition to her body of work and there is much enjoy within it, especially the world-building.

Pauline Morgan

March 2022

(pub: Janet Edwards, 2021. 373 page small enlarged paperback.  Price: £10.99 (UK). ISBN: 979-8-77819-809-8)

check out website: https://janetedwards.com/

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