Spolier Free Summary: Fortress Beta City is the sequel to The Legion Awakes. As book two in the Sleeping Legion saga by J.R. Handley,it picks off where book one left off. Sergeant Lance Scipio wakes from cryo sleep once more to find the world has changed yet again. The White Knights have apparently abandoned Tranquility-4, and his planet has become a battleground between two strange forces. In one corner, unidentified Marines he’s unsure he can trust. In the other corner, the Hardits whose rebellion started at the end of book 1. He has to discover what these new Marines want; Stop his city from dying, drowning, or starving; and find a way to protect his Marines. Those missions will force Lance to take on a role he’d never imagined having before.
Character: I mentioned in my review for Legion that Lance is the only character I could really hold onto. While I still think the reader has too many characters to track, things calm down, and we do get to know more of the other characters. I remember GG, a Junton commander. Basil has an amazing hero moment! Nhlappo is an interesting character as well. Those characters create an effective base and allow the reader to grow closer to the characters around them. I’d say that’s a definite improvement. Lance sort of disappears near the end of the book (not literally, like a spoiler, but his air time sort of falls off). The action is so quick, the reader shouldn’t really mind. Besides, I was more interested in GG’s arc at the time. This isn’t unexpected in a series. You’re going to meet a cast of characters, and some books may shift from character to character. I’m most looking forward to Nhlappo’s confrontation with Spartika. If book 3 delivers that, I’m a happy guy. I’d still like a bit more air time for those characters and fewer cuts to other characters, but as long as I have these guys to follow, I’ll be loyal to the series.
Exposition: This was the biggest area of improvement from book 1 to book 2. It’s been a while since I actually finished the book, but I tend to purposefully let a bit of time pass between reviews. This allows me to focus on the thoughts that really stick and let go of whatever raw emotions I might have had. In this case, I can’t remember the info-dump sections I could from the first book. Most science fiction books require segments of info, but this had a better blending of showing vs telling. I mentioned that there are still a bunch of characters we only catch fleeting glimpses of, but those characters provide the reader scope, perspective, or, in this case, information. I’d call that a fair trade.
World building: I still think fans of Human Legion will latch onto this more quickly, but I was able to track this story pretty effectively. Now, part of this is because one source of conflict is the survivability of the planet. This clever source of conflict allows a nube like me to get familiar with Human Legion terms and characters as I learn about the story. I didn’t feel nearly as lost in this book as I did at times in book one. Part is because I have a book under my belt, the other is because of that particular plot line.
Dialogue: In terms of catching the feel of the military banter and back and forth, the dialogue is solid, but this might be one of the weaker areas of the book. Basil and Lance have distinct voices to me, but the other characters don’t quite stand out to me. They’re all interesting, and, to be honest, voice in dialogue is a challenge for me. I think a lot of the reason I’m seeing it has more to do with how much I’m working to improve my own skill is forcing me to see what others are doing. I just wanted to note a potential bias and explain it. Voice is a challenge, but the dialogue is still witty with plenty of clever back-and-forth.
Description: This is the strongest area of Handley’s writing. He gives the reader what he needs without taking away the readers imagination. He has a nice mix of active verbs and carefully placed adjectives that help the reader visualize through observation instead of narration. He does himself a credit with how he draws the reader in with scenes and action sequences. Action scenes are key in science fiction combat books, and Handley has that part down.
Overall: This is a fantastic sequel to the first book. It’s better, more action packed, and more emotionally powerful. The connection to the characters is higher, and the action sequences feel even more realistic. If the first book was interesting, this book will probably get you hooked on the series.