The universe was once overrun by an intergalactic war, fought with star system-destroying technologies. Then a mysterious energy called the pulse pushed technology’s progress back, including humanity’s ability to destroy one another. In some cases, planets lost a few conveniences or even space flight. In others, they lost the ability to generate electricity at all. Enter Jane Kamali, a member of the Justified, the group responsible for the pulse. Jane’s job is simple: she must find children with special powers and get them back to the Sanctum—the Justified’s base—before other sects can find them and abuse their powers. When a mission to rescue a gifted girl named Esa goes south, Jane is pulled into a struggle against the Pax, a bloodthirsty, militaristic sect that values strength and domination above all else. In the battle to survive, Jane, Esa and the Sanctum itself must fight tooth and nail if they hope to stand up to the Pax.
The Stars Now Unclaimed takes what should be a predictable space opera—fight scenes with a bit of plot sprinkled in like glue—and creates something truly fun. Kamali and her compatriots’ sarcasm prevent the book from taking itself too seriously, breaking up the tension created by the near endless fight and chase scenes (there is barely a page in the book that is not at least affected by one or the other). The fight and chase scenes themselves are magnificent and compelling, careening the reader from tense pre-ambush jitters to the adrenaline of an attack and back again in just a few sentences. Williams’ combination of fantastic fight scenes and skillful character writing makes The Stars Now Unclaimed a compulsively readable treat for readers in search of a kinetic space opera.
But it is not a good choice for anyone who is less than enthusiastic about fight scenes, as well as for readers who are squeamish about a little bit of (non-graphic) gore. And while Williams writes a great story, it is an action story rather than a deep, contemplative look at the nature of the universe. That doesn’t mean that Williams shies away from some difficult questions. But it does mean that The Stars Now Unclaimed doesn’t get bogged down in the philosophical details. It moves quickly, hurtling its readers towards its exciting (and lengthy) climax.
The Stars Now Unclaimed is a perfect pick for any reader who loved “Firefly”’s Mal or Star Wars’ Han, or for anyone who just wants a good romp through the galaxy with a thousand fighters on their tail.