Antimatter Blues by Edward Ashton
Publication Date: March 14, 2023
Summary from NetGalley:
Summer has come to Niflheim. The lichens are growing, the six-winged bat-things are chirping, and much to his own surprise, Mickey Barnes is still alive—that last part thanks almost entirely to the fact that Commander Marshall believes that the colony’s creeper neighbors are holding an antimatter bomb, and that Mickey is the only one who’s keeping them from using it. Mickey’s just another colonist now. Instead of cleaning out the reactor core, he spends his time these days cleaning out the rabbit hutches. It’s not a bad life.
It’s not going to last.
It may be sunny now, but winter is coming. The antimatter that fuels the colony is running low, and Marshall wants his bomb back. If Mickey agrees to retrieve it, he’ll be giving up the only thing that’s kept his head off of the chopping block. If he refuses, he might doom the entire colony. Meanwhile, the creepers have their own worries, and they’re not going to surrender the bomb without getting something in return. Once again, Mickey finds the fate of two species resting in his hands. If something goes wrong this time, though, he won’t be coming back.
ARC provided by ST. Martin’s Press via Netgalley for an honest review.
I enjoyed this second book almost as much as the first. My main issue was with the abruptness of the ending, and a little bit with the pacing. But for the most part it was an enjoyable read.
Mickey continues to be his delightfully snarky self, but we have seen a bit of growth in the two years since the first book. He is still philosophical about his life and those around him, and he can still take the moral high ground when he feels it is needed. Mickey is put in a very hard position between the survival of the colony vs the survival of the sentient beings on this planet and he does come to own up his part in this whole issue.
We get to see a lot more of the creepers, the sentient species that lives on this planet, and learn more about them. They do appear to be more advanced than the humans figured they were in the first book. For example, they figure out a way to communicate better with us which was really quite amazing. As Mickey interacts with them, and as others do as well, there is much confusion and misinterpretation of one another. I did enjoy Speaker, one of the creepers that is able to communicate with the humans. He was always able to call bullshit on Mickey when it was needed.
The world building is what really makes this such a fun read. This is a planet that is inherently dangerous and with not only an atmosphere that will kill you, but many other things as well. The author does a marvelous job of keeping the tension high while making you root for everyone to survive. There were a few slower parts during the “roadtrip” that Mickey and the others take, but the action parts make up for that.
If you enjoyed the first book in this series, I am pretty sure that you will like this one. It has some great characters, interesting intelligent beings and a great plot. It also has a great protagonist in Mickey, who will do anything to survive on this hostile planet.