Following the apparent betrayal of Commodore James “Paladin” Taggart and Captain Amity Aristee’s escape from Terran Confederation forces, the hunt for the illegal Hopper Drive and the oppression of the Pilgrims continue. Space Marshal Gregarov begins to shift blame for the situation onto Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn and his right hand man, Commodore Richard Bellegarde, setting them up to take the fall for her own illegal actions. But, almost none of that compares to the actions of one lone Confederation fighter pilot, Christopher Blair.
Still reeling with the fact that his two sides are at war with one another—figuratively and literally—Blair finds himself increasingly distracted by visions of a great blue field. After hearing that other Pilgrims have been experiencing the same visions, Blair begins to fear that it will spell the end of the Confederation if he and his paired consort, Karista, don’t find some way to get the fleet to abandon its intended bombardment of Pilgrim territory; however, he’s not the only one who is worried about the future.
Far across the stars, Paladin and Aristee are being held as prisoners of the Kilrathi after a somewhat crazy plan to ally with the empire fails. Not long after their capture, the Pilgrims are let go and given their freedom, because the emperor fears the coming of the great blue field and what it represents: the return of the first Pilgrims and their decision to make war on the rest of the galaxy.
Finally, right at the time when the Confederation begins to bombard Pilgrim territory, the first Pilgrims make their presence known and put an end to all hostilities within Pilgrim, Confederation, and Kilrathi space. Claiming to have extranormal powers—even more so than for a Pilgrim—Ivar Chu McDaniel addresses all of known space to inform everyone that his Pilgrims will be leaving with him. No longer needed to fight, Aristee is sent to stand trial for her betrayal of the Confederation but makes one last act of defiance before she can be showboated before the galaxy.
Still unsure of his future, or his relationship with Jeannette “Angel" Devereaux, Blair continues forward with his trusty roommate and fellow pilot, Todd “Maniac” Marshall, to defend the Confederation against the Kilrathi and other threats.
Personal Observations & Reactions
Even in this incarnation, Admiral Tolwyn is still as devoted to his own sense of right and wrong as ever, only this time he seems to have picked up a sidekick in the form of his right-hand man, Bellegarde. The two go to great lengths to make sure their threats against the Pilgrims aren’t perceived as empty gestures, and to think that not one, but two professional military officers would participate—and initiate—wholesale slaughter is rather disturbing, if even for a fictional character. Perhaps if it were against the Kilrathi, I can somewhat understand it, but the Pilgrims are descendants of humans and look exactly like the Confeds.
One of things I really didn’t like about the book, though, is how the internal political intrigue within the Confederation reached all the way to the top of the government. While the first two books alluded to a little bit of internal maneuvering by the space marshall, this installment takes it beyond anything I would have imagined, including the president of the Confederation. It’s not as if political intrigue hasn’t been involved in at least one of the previous (though not related) Wing Commander books, but that novel was a direct adaptation of one of the games and thus isn’t an original work like this one is.
I was really disappointed by just how extraordinary the original Pilgrims came to be; it was just too much and really brought down the story for me. I had no problems with the extrakinetic abilities that they gave some of the Pilgrims—and even Blair—but to make the original Pilgrims into some sort of deities with superior technology (and a superior sounding philosophy) just seemed to be jumping the shark without the Fonz even being present.
Probably the one thing that stuck out as being wrong for me was the lack of the Kilrathi taking advantage of the situation. Sure, the emperor sought to form an alliance with the Pilgrim rebels, but that doesn’t mean he has to stop fighting against the Confederation. During the crisis a great many Confederation ships are sitting on top of Pilgrim enclaves and planets, just sitting there. Why couldn’t the Kilrathi send out a coordinated strike against even just one of these small Confed forces? Even just taking out the Concordia would damage morale and combat performance for the front lines, and it’s very doable . . . and yet he didn’t do it.
Perhaps it was the anticipation of the conclusion to the story the first two books created, but I was really looking forward to reading this novel—so much so that I actually emailed the author a handful of times to keep up-to-date on his progress. And, it’s not as though it’s a horrible book, but it could have been so much better than what it was. I likewise had to go back and reread the first two books just to make sure I knew what was going on again, and because of that, I was able to spot some editing and content mistakes. (I’m going to assume part of that is due to not having a publisher and for putting it on a fan club website.) All in all, if you’re a wingnut like I am and read the first two books, then reading the third will certainly finish it up, but don’t expect it to be the best ending you’ve ever read.