Stars Beyond (2020) is the sequel to sisterly writing duo S.K. Dunstall’s novel Stars Uncharted which Tadiana and I reviewed last year. We agreed that it was a Firefly-type story that was accessible and pleasant, but lacked originality. The good news, though, is that book two, Stars Beyond, is better.
Stars Beyond picks up where Stars Uncharted left off. The crew of The Road has a new spaceship (called Another Road) decked out with weapons. They’re still on the run from the corporate entities who are pursuing them for various reasons and have teamed up to capture them.
Unfortunately, Captain Roystan isn’t up to the challenge of leading his crew because his elderly body, which has been continuously modded to keep its youth, is starting to fail rapidly. Nika, the best body modder in the universe, can’t fix him without acquiring a very specific expensive machine that has the capability of modifying his genes in the right way. The crew can afford the machine, but if she orders it, she may tip off the bad guys who are searching for her… but if she doesn’t, then Roystan will die and she’ll be caught anyway… And so she decides to order it, which sets off a cascade of disastrous consequences.
Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Nika — a Justice Department operative named Alistair who lives on a harsh planet that’s being mined by a greedy and unscrupulous corporation. Alistair is worried about the fate of the colonists sent to mine the planet as well as the sentient beings who live there. He thinks Rika can help. So, he’s another person searching for Nika and, at first, his motivations are unclear.
For the most part, Stars Beyond is fast-paced and exciting. There are fires, chases, disguises, captures, sacrifices, torture, shoot-outs, spaceship battles, big discoveries, daring escapes, last-second rescues, and even explosions.
There’s a bit too much talk about the specs of certain body-modding machines, which I found unnecessary and boring, the villains are a little overdone, smart characters do dumb things like talking about their plans in front of the wrong people, and the dynamics of moving in space is totally unrealistic. But the plot is entertaining.
The new protagonists are welcome additions and we learn more about the original characters, including the interesting backstories of Snow, Josune, and Roystan.
The ending of Stars Beyond is satisfying. The different plot threads and various mysteries come together nicely (if a little too easily). It’s also sweet.
Emily Woo Zeller narrates Penguin Audio’s edition of Stars Beyond. I wasn’t crazy about the way she narrated the story as if she was talking conspiratorially under her breath, but the dialogue was good and I like the voices she uses for the characters.