Two centuries in the future, following Earth’s first attack on its Martian colony, both planets are struggling to maintain peace and find a way forward in the vast space between them. This is the foundation on which Phobos Rising is built, the second installation of the Ephialtes trilogy by Gavin E. Parker, and a worthy successor to the first book in the series, as well as the companion book of short stories.
Five years have passed since the first aggression, and that same growth is apparent in the writing style. There is more patience with the storytelling, and readers get a richer taste of the core character’s personalities – from President Cortes and Kostovich to Foveaux and Askel. Given that this is the second book in the series, less exposition is required, leaving more room for thorough character development and philosophical musings about the purpose of leadership, humanity’s destiny, and our species’ penchant for war.
This is an impressively complex novel about interplanetary political maneuvering and military strategy, as well as the challenges of independence and the seeming impossibility of peace. The style of writing is strict at times, written with almost military precision, which lends itself to clear-cut explanations, essential dialogue exchanges, and an easily followed plot.
The novel is also interspersed with narrative passages that help readers understand the gravity of decisions being made by each character. At times, this can feel like Parker is urging readers to think about the story a certain way, but this still leaves plenty of mystery and existential uncertainty, making this futuristic space thriller a riveting read.