Great space adventures aren’t easy to find, but in Pursuit of the Guardian, the second installment of the Children of the Republic series, author Jason Hutt hits all the right buttons for sci-fi fans. Combining the broad creativity of “Star Wars” and the rough-around-the-edges universe of “Firefly,” this novel is an action-packed and immensely satisfying read.
Reading the first novel is crucial to appreciating the various characters populating these pages, particularly the dynamic of Senator Maria Cahill, who is blinded by grief and the desire to crush Max Cabot, the restless hero of this tale. Max Cabot may not have all the swash-buckling charm of Han Solo, but he has a good heart beneath his gruff exterior, and saving children is what he does best.
His heartstrings are uniquely tugged when a clone of his daughter ends up on one of his runs from the outer edges of the galaxy, reminding him of everything he had once lived for. Doomed to roam the fringes of Republic space, Max trusts his crew and his ship, The Guardian, but he also smells danger around every corner. He’s right to be concerned, of course, as this anti-hero’s enemies have caught up with him, and one is already on board the ship.
This masterfully penned novel has a classic sci-fi feeling, but also seems updated and well-polished, with an ideal balance between character development and action. The exposition passages are succinct and essential, and help to subtly build the world in which the reader is immersed. From philosophy on backwater-planet barstools to narrow escapes from hordes of Republic soldiers, the story follows the unsteady journey of a man on the edge, which always makes for a good adventure.
That being said, Max is more than just a half-drunk space cowboy – he has a vision of how he wants the world to be, and the determination to use what gifts he has to make that happen. His one-of-a-kind ship certainly helps him keep one step ahead of his enemies, but some part of his character will always be tragically broken, which is what makes him a compelling character who isn’t just a cookie-cutter trope. Hannah’s presence rekindles something in him over time, making him a much more lively and engaging character.
The writing is visceral, particularly in the fast-paced chase scenes and tense moments. Hutt has a way of conveying action, movement and emotion in clever and memorable ways, making it much easier to picture the scenes and become involved in the story. The dialogue is equally well-crafted, without ever seeming forced or unnecessary, which can sometimes be the case in sci-fi writing. The different personalities are maintained and never falter over the course of the novel, showing a strong foundation of draftsmanship and a long-term vision for what this series, and these characters, will eventually be.
The main critique is the rather large cast of characters, some of which don’t seem altogether essential. With so many unusual names and character motivations flying around, it can occasionally be confusing, and may require a quick read-back to find your place in the scene. However, Pursuit of the Guardian overcomes any of these minor failings by delivering a heartfelt and breathlessly told story that will leave readers eager for the next piece of this cosmic puzzle.
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