Phobos Rising: Ephialtes Part II
by Gavin E. Parker
Parcom Entertainment

"We’re left with the same options we had before. Wait for a fight we’ve got a good chance of losing, or go ahead and start a fight we’ve got a good chance of winning."

Conflict, both military and ethical, abounds in the mid-23rd century, setting the scene for a swashbuckling military science fiction saga with intricate subplots and more characters and points of view than a Russian novel. World War Four is over. Even though Earth (or the USAN—United States and Nations) won, she had to sign an energy accord with Mars to prevent a buildup of military power. But hawkish and evil USAN President Cortes wants more of Mars’ deuterium fuel to strengthen the military and conquer Mars. He’s been siphoning deuterium, secretly he thinks, to the detriment of the economy. The citizens, as well as some Cabinet members, are in revolt. Civil war looms.

Mars’ President Venkdt is a level-headed dove but is aging and losing his influence. Snake-in-the-grass Dr. Kostovich, a brilliant R&D scientist, suspects USAN’s motive and uses his influence to advocate a Martian preemptive attack. Askel Lund (wunderkind space craft designer) and military hero Bobby Karjalainen are lovers and dual-citizens working for Mars; Cortes tries to turn them. The highly ethical USAN vice president, Gerard White, has been neutralized by alcoholism, stemming from the car death (or was it murder?) of his beloved Madeline. USAN Hayden Steiner, a “genetically edited” soldier, has disappeared into the deadly Martian atmosphere outside the habitat domes, and is presumed dead—but is he? About two dozen more characters thicken the plot, while conflict escalates like a forest fire. Both sides “secretly” prepare for war, with dropships, nano machines, synthetic humans, and robots bestowed with artificial intelligence.

Parker writes well, the action riding a high-speed rail through layers of technology, deteriorating chains of command, moral dilemmas, and military insight. Characters are complex and well-drawn, but a glossary and list of them would be helpful. The overriding theme that war is pointless is refreshingly uplifting. But will politics mar peace? That answer lies in the final, suspenseful chapter.

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