The Heartless Hinds by Frank Kennedy [9/10]

In these antsy times, blessed is the space opera, unfurling rousing adventures at the edge of comprehension. My favorite in recent times has been the Frank Kennedy series set in the vast, unforgiving universe of the crushing Collectorate. The first quartet of books, titled The Impossible Future, set the scene with great gusto and intelligence, and now Beyond the Impossible is upping the ante, with a mind-blowing plot being carefully revealed over more than four books. I know this series exceeds quartet size because the just-released fourth in the series, “The Heartless Hinds,” is only just beginning to stitch together the disparate story threads. Kennedy is an effortless stylist, especially with his flowing, witty dialogue, and in his superbly choreographed action scenes. Not a word is wasted, yet the pace never feels hurried. In The Heartless Hinds, Kara Syung, the feisty, clever noblewoman we met in the first book of the series and now part of the crew of a deadly warship, negotiates on a planet populated with Earth’s ex-Africans; immortal Exeter Woolsey joins the Aeternan super-warriors headed by a core character from the first series; and Angela Poussard, once top Chancellor, plots and plots. Behind the mayhem and planetary jockeying, the mysterious Inventor pulls strings. The plot is invigoratingly complex, testimony to a master world builder in action. Hard-core science fiction like this can end up feeling frivolous. Not so this series, and The Heartless Hinds is already a highlight of 2022.

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