Dark and Stars by J.B. Rockwell #BookReview

Title: Dark and Stars | Series: Serengeti #2 | Author: J.B. Rockwell | Publisher: Severed Press | Pub. Date: 2016-11-29 | Pages: 406 | ASIN: B01NCEM3EL | Genre: Science Fiction | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: I received an audio copy free from the author for review consideration


Dark and Stars

Fifty-three years Serengeti drifted, dreaming in the depths of space. Fifty-three years of patient waiting before her Valkyrie Sisters arrive to retrieve her from the dark. A bittersweet homecoming follows, the Fleet Serengeti once knew now in shambles, its admiral, Cerberus, gone missing, leaving Brutus in charge. Brutus who’s subsumed the Fleet, ignoring his duty to the Meridian Alliance to pursue a vendetta against the Dark Star Revolution.

The Valkyries have a plan to stop him—depose Brutus and restore the Fleet’s purpose—and that plan involves Serengeti. Depends on Serengeti turning her guns against her own.

Because the Fleet can no longer be trusted. With Brutus in charge, it’s just Serengeti and her Sisters, and whatever reinforcements they can find.

A top-to-bottom refit restores Serengeti to service, and after a rushed reunion with Henricksen and her surviving crew, she takes off for the stars. For Faraday—a prison station—to stage a jailbreak, and free the hundreds of Meridian Alliance AIs wrongfully imprisoned in its Vault. From there to the Pandoran Cloud and a rendezvous with her Valkyrie Sisters. To retrieve a fleet of rebels ships stashed away inside.

One last battle, one last showdown with Brutus and his Dreadnoughts and it all ends. A civil war—one half of the Meridian Alliance Fleet turned against the other, with the very future of the Meridian Alliance hanging in the balance.

Dark and Stars book cover

Dark and Stars Review

Note: Okay, wow, this review has been on Goodreads for months, but either I completely forget to transfer it over here, or the servers somehow ate it. Either way, I greatly apologize to J.B. Rockwell for this review not appearing on the site before now. I only discovered it wasn’t here when I was going through to do link-ups for her most recent Bad Movie Recap & Review

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I read J.B. Rockwell’s Serengeti at the beginning of the year and liked it. I believe I described it as one part massive space battle, two parts Wall-E 2. It was a pleasant surprise that left me with a surprising amount of ‘feels’ I didn’t expect to feel about a spaceship. So, I initially resisted reading Dark and Stars for the same reason I resist reading a lot of sequels. The fact that there was a strong chance the sequel was going to – if not outright suck – not be anywhere near as good as the first one. There have only been a handful of times where it’s gone in the opposite direction.

But then the author offered me an audiobook version for review, and I caved. I love my audiobooks.

So, let me get this out of the way right away. The narrator for Dark and Stars sucked. She was not the right voice for this book. She read the book like it was a children’s book most of the time. The voices were overly exaggerated, and the English accent just did not fit at all. At one point I remember commenting to someone that the narrator gave me this mental picture of Julie Andrews. Julie Andrews as a Valkyrie spaceship mercilessly mowing down those who get in her way. Let that one sink in until you see exactly how disturbing it is. And the voice she used for Oona made me hunch my shoulders and wince every time I heard it. Dear sweet baby Cthulhu, that voice was one of the most annoying ones I’ve ever heard!

To give the narrator some credit, though, the saccharine sweet voice did make some of the insults, quips, and cursing rather unexpectedly hilarious. (And yes, even though the narrator reads it like a kid book, this is not a kid book. There’s a fair amount of situational appropriate cursing involved.)

Dark and Stars, however, did not suck. It did not suck at all. In fact, Dark and Stars was actually better than the first book. 

J.B. Rockwell has a talent for writing battles. I’m always able to visualize what exactly is happening, and find myself on the edge of my seat. When it got to the long-awaited main battle in Dark and Stars, I found myself holding my breath and driving a little slower than I should have to give myself more time before I had to disengage from the story.

As for characters, even if I did not care for them all, they are memorable. I love Serengeti and Henricksen, of course. Those two are a match made in the stars. The interactions between them are full of mutual respect and snark, and they work together extremely well. Finley is another fun character, and has probably my favorite line in the whole book.

“Why thank you! I was gonna kick him in the nuts, but Poppa raised me to be a lady.”

Likewise, Tig and Tilly and are fun little robots, and there’s a scene involving guns that had me laughing out loud.

I do have the same problem, however, with Dark and Stars that I had with Serengeti. That being that I just can’t buy the humanity of the AI. Serengeti herself I eventually adapted to, but Oona… Well, Oona is, in my opinion, the weakest point in the book. The only way I can justify her behavior is that she’s absolutely brilliant and deliberately acting like a 2 year old to disarm people. It’s a computer mind, I just can’t see a computer unintentionally mangling a word like she often does. It, pardon the pun, does not compute. But even with that justification, it still bothers me. I can’t help it. Actually, one of the other characters – a stealth ship – is another character that’s a little hard to believe in. But I won’t say more on that because I’m not sure how much of it is pure distaste from the voice the narrator gave him.

There is one other thing involving Oona. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but her role in the plot of Dark and Stars is obvious. I didn’t mind it, because it gave me a bit of reassurance, but it does dial back on the potential ‘surprise’ in store later on. Other people might not think it’s as obvious as it is. I’m fully willing to admit that I read so much that there’s very little that can surprise me anymore.

The pacing in Dark and Stars is fantastic. Right from the moment it begins, you know that something isn’t right. Then, as time goes on, and more is revealed, the tension ratchets up until you just want the climactic fight scene to happen already! I was completely wrapped up in Serengeti’s adventures in this book. The fact that I had to keep stopping to adult (or sleep) had me so irritated! The final battle had me yelling at my phone. I can’t tell you what I was yelling because of spoilers, but take my word for it – definitely yelling!

From the memorable characters to a plot that sucks you in completely, and kick-butt battle scenes to boot, Dark and Stars is a fantastic follow-up to Serengeti. JB Rockwell manages to give readers a sequel that feels fresh and strong and proves her talent.

(I went back and forth between four and five stars for quite a while before decided that four stars was just barely a better fit than five, given the issues I had – not counting the narrator choice – . It’s really more of a 4.5.)

Buy Link: Amazon