The Aleph Extraction: The Galactic Cold War Book 2 by Dan Moren
Angry Robot, ebook, £8.29
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Simon Kovalic and his team are back, this time chasing the Aleph Tablet, a supposed alien artefact rumoured to unlock the secrets of the wormholes humans use for space travel. The tablet is the property of the galaxy’s most notorious gangster, and Kovalic’s rivals from the Illyrican Empire are also hunting for it. But that is business as usual for Kovalic and his team. Their biggest problem comes from their newest addition, mission specialist Addy Sayers – an ex-con with a temper who punches first and questions later. Can they trust her to stay on their side, or will the lure of her old criminal life cause Addy to turn on her new colleagues?
In this second book in Dan Moren’s The Galactic Cold War series, The Aleph Extraction picks up not long after the events of The Bayern Agenda (find the review here) with Kovalic and his team still reeling from the betrayal of a one-time team member. I can’t say more than that to keep this review relatively spoiler free. I liked that The Bayern Agenda’s defining moment was still felt in The Aleph Extraction because it was an explosive ending. Kovalic hasn’t shared the full events with his team, so every decision he makes, including the controversial hiring of Addy, is questioned. How do you run a covert squad when they don’t trust you?
There are plenty of twists and turns, so you’re never quite sure where the next surprise comes from. Ofeibia Xi is the queen of the criminal underworld, head of the White Star Syndicate, and collector of valuable artefacts. She stole the tablet and now expects people to infiltrate her cruise liner, the Queen Amina, to take it back. Commander Mirza of the Imperial Intelligence Service (IIS) also has a team on the cruise liner and is always one step ahead of Kovalic. Then there’s Addy, who is not a team player, withholding information and making plays without approval. Every chapter is jampacked with lies, subterfuge, and counterattacks. I couldn’t put it down.
As I often say in my reviews, I’m drawn to character-led stories. The world-building can be amazing, but if the characters aren’t fully-rounded, flawed individuals, then brilliant world-building will only engage me so far. Moren’s characters spring out of the book from the first page, whether it is Simon carrying guilt for his actions at the end of The Bayern Agenda, Brody uncertain about his place in the team, or Addy fighting to stay on mission. I cared about the characters from the start and that, combined with the breakneck pace and nonstop action, kept me turning the page so I could find out what happened next.
From start to finish, The Aleph Extraction is a rollercoaster of a ride with high energy and higher stakes. I loved it so much that I spent my own money on other works by Moren to read for leisure. A reviewer can’t give higher praise than that.