Adam Korenman’s second installment in his sci-fi series, The Gray Wars, picks up almost immediately after the events from book one, When the Stars Fade. Everything humanity knows is in flux, with a rebellion on Earth threatening the current system of government, a sudden introduction to non-human life forms from the cosmos, and an interstellar war sweeping humanoids up in its tide. Alliances break and form in a heartbeat in the current world, and it’s becoming more difficult to tell who is an ally and who is a foe. Korenman’s people face challenges with spunk, vigor, and a zest to endure, but how long can it last when they’re outgunned, outmanned, and facing total annihilation?
The Boxti still pose the greatest threat to Earth and its colonies in Korenman’s follow-up, When the Skies Fall, but internal strife between the Federation Government and the Red Hammer could destroy humans first. The plot jumps between genetic manipulation to create super soldiers, political intrigue, and plain, old-fashioned warfare (Okay, it involves space ships, so it’s a little fancier than the average WWII epic.) to detail a universe where humans are no longer the top of the food chain. The Nangolani (the Grays of the series’ subtitle) presented themselves as fragile, human-loving non-humans in book one, but their motivations in seeking out human outposts (or any non-Nangolani-populated planet) becomes murkier as the plot weaves along. No one is safe from betrayal nor ulterior motives in Korenman’s world, and don’t get too attached to anyone since the author takes the phrase “killing your darlings” to heart.
Because I enjoyed When the Stars Fade so much, I eagerly plowed into book two only to find myself a little depressed with the lack of hope or joy I perceived in the story. It’s a bleak chapter for many groups I’d learned about in book one, and, at times, it felt too dark to process during the winter holidays (Spoiler: I was so upset about Kaileen’s judgment); however, the second half is peppered with some uplifting moments that helped to reassure me that this universe wasn’t entirely devoid of light.
While there are still multiple storylines in When the Skies Fall, many of them begin to coalesce to reveal connections. Obviously, not everything can be tied together easily, but, gradually, the number of stories will decrease and show how relationships and acts have consequences in the far future.
If you have not read When the Stars Fade, do not attempt to jump into the universe with When the Skies Fall. So much of the background and setup is laid out in book one that book two would feel half-created if the reader doesn’t start at the beginning. I feel the strength of this series is in how each book builds on the previous one, and it shows the epic scope of Korenman’s vision. While he uses personal stories to illustrate his point, I’m sure that the fate of Earth and even the universe will be affected by his characters’ upcoming choices.
4.5 Last-Ditch Escapes into the Blue out of 5