The preface to this, the latest installment of the New Frontier series, has a very simple message: Things change. While this is true, perhaps setting up some of the profound changes evidenced in this book, rather than plunging the reader willy-nilly into the thick of things with next to no preamble whatever, may have been a better course.
Instead, David unexpectedly fast-forwards the story some three years from the events of Stone and Anvil, as prime minister Si Cwan of the New Thallonian Protectorate is about to see his sister Kalinda married to the son of his prime arbiter. But Kally is kidnapped before the joyous occasion can take place, and Captain Calhoun and the Excalibur come charging in to save the day...only to wind up getting into an even thicker tangle when the kidnapper claims that Kally was taken from him, by another ship...a ship matching descriptions of a ship belonging to an ancient, long-ago-vanished race...
One hopes that, as this book is the first of a planned trilogy, books two and three shed some light on some of the events of the preceding three years. A great deal has happened to the crews of the Excalibur & Trident, to say nothing of the Federation itself. Lives have been changed, a war has been fought and won, and some of our cast of characters have moved on to other opportunities. Some of the changes are easily comprehended, others somewhat less so...and one change in particular just left me gaping in disbelief.
But while many things do change, one thing remains comfortably the same: David's wit, style, and sense of characterization are intact. Even with the unexpected three-year jump and the not-wholly-fleshed-out circumstances of that intervening period, Calhoun and company are definitely back, and one can count on a good read and a good time.
Title: After the Fall