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Linesman #2


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As the Linesman series continues, linesman Ean Lambert finds himself facing an alien ship he doesn’t understand—and a terrifying political threat he cannot fight…
The lines. The soul of every ship. It was once thought there were only ten, but that was before an alien vessel appeared at the edge of space—before Ean Lambert heard more lines singing. Ean’s ways of communicating with lines is strange. But his abilities make him a valuable tool—or weapon—to command.
Captain Selma Kari Wang has lost everything—her ship, her crew, her legs. But the New Alliance of Worlds is not done with her yet. After they rebuild her broken body, they send her to captain one of the new alien ships, teaming her up with Ean, the only one who can understand the alien lines.
Kari Wang and Ean are poised on the threshold of discoveries that could change the world. But not everyone wants the New Alliance to control the secrets they uncover—and those who oppose won’t hesitate to do whatever it takes to stop them…

389 pages, Paperback

First published February 23, 2016

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S.K. Dunstall

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5 stars
681 (37%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 138 reviews
June 25, 2018
Actual rating: 4.5 stars.

Who knew lines could be so cool and exciting and awesome and stuff?!

Err...That's not really the type of line I had in mind, but I guess this looks kind of fun, too. Perhaps. Maybe. A little. In a non-Sci-Fi, non-space opera, non-devious plotting galore, 100% retirement home-approved way. But hey, there seems to be music involved in that line up there ⤴, so that means there might be singing as well, right? And if there's singing, then it means the lines I'm actually referring to are gleefully happy. No idea what I'm talking about? That's okay, you shouldn’t. I mean, you really should, but since you have no common sense and therefore have not yet read this series (don’t ask me what common sense has to do with this, I have no idea), you don’t. Yes, logic is me, I know.

Anyway, I’d tell you about what the lines in this series refer to but I’m presently lazy as fish, so I won’t [insert light-bulb moment here] Wait. Yes, I will! I’ll just copy the stuff I wrote about lines in my review for the first book in this series! Ha! So cunning of me indeed *pats herself on the exoskeleton* Soooo, our resident lines are a sort of Sentient Alien Technology Thingie (SATT™) that make spaceships work and also enable space travel. Every spacecraft has a set of lines and a team of, um, you know, linesmen to service them. Now, up to the end of book 1, the puny humans in this world didn't really know how or why lines worked. Because all humans are puny and all puny beings are clueless, ergo all humans are clueless. But 1/Times they are a changin’ and stuff and 2/Ean Lambert is in da house.

Err…That’s not really the house I had in mind, but whatever. Besides, much like the line that wasn’t the line I had in mind up there ⤴, this house (that isn’t the one I was referring to, remember?) involves ♫ singing ♫. And you know how it is with the lines I was actually referring to up there ⤴, don’t you? That’s right, as long as someone is singing their little head off in their near vicinity, they are gleefully happy. Anyway, Ean Lambert—aka our Originally Hard to Warm Up to But Now Super Endearing Main Character (OHtWUtBNSEMC™)—has now gone up in the world galaxy and is in charge of training other linesmen (who might or might not be slightly sceptical about his, um, musical approach to line servicing). Yeah yeah, I know, it sounds boring as fish when I put it like that, but I promise it isn’t. I mean, I have the patience and attention span of a malnourished, anaemic barnacle and I thought it was all pretty exciting and stuff, so there’s perhaps maybe a slight chance than you will, too. Except if you are one of Those of the Despicable Book Taste (TotDBT™). If such is the case, I am afraid there is naught I can do for you and stuff. But I digress. What I was so eloquently trying to say is: this line business is indeed super cool and intriguing and original and fun and stuff. Also, Ean Lambert is almost nearly harem-worthy, in a kinda sorta deliciously awkward, wonderfully socially inept yet delectably charming way.

Add to that ⤴ (yes, I do love that arrow thingie, so astute of you to notice and stuff) awesome space stuff , a fantastic cast of diverse characters, political machinations galore, murder and espionage and kidnapping oh my, suspense, humor, and a great audio narration by Brian Hutchinson, and you well, um, you know, a 4.5-star book. More or less.

➽ And the moral of this You Don’t Have to Wave Your Silly Lightsaber around Like a Maniac to Impress the Enemy, Singing Your Head Off Will Suffice and Stuff Crappy Non Review (YDHtWYSLaLaMtItESYHOWSaSCNR™) is: not that I’m enjoying this series or anything, but I’m already halfway through book three as we speak. I think that should tell you something. Yes it should.

P.S. Ean dear, I think I just found another, um, line for you and the, um, lines to enjoy. Not sure your slightly aggravating voice coach, Messire Rigel, would approve of your singing along to this one, but I say he can go to Stinking Fish Hell (SFH™). So you just go right ahead and ♫ jump in the line ♫ pet, my murderous children will, um, take care of Rigel and stuff.

Book 1: Linesman ★★★★
Book 3: Confluence ★★★★★

[Pre-review nonsense]

Not a single pew pew pew to be had in this series. But original line stuff and entertaining line stuff and exciting line stuff? Oh yes, there's definitely plenty of that to be had. YUM.

I said no pew pew pew, dammit! Take your Spoiler and go home, Luke, your drunk!

➽ Full Young and Clueless I Used to Be and Hate Silly Space Opera Stuff Slightly I Was Inclined To But Wise and Ancient All Knowing Now I Am Ergo Love it Much Now I Do Crappy Non Review (YaCIUtBaHSSOSSIWITBWaAAKNIAELiMNIDCNR™) to come.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,240 reviews219 followers
May 20, 2017
A great second book in this brilliant space opera series.

Ean Lambert finds himself as the chief Linesman of the New Alliance, a new political entity rising out of the events of the previous book. The New Alliance is also at war with the Gate Union, a conflict that it is bound to lose because of the GU's monopoly over galactic trade and the Gates required for safe travel. What stops the war from being over before it's begun are the alien ships that Lambert and his friends now have control over, but they remain an unknown quantity at the beginning of this book.

We get viewpoints in this book from Ean, an experienced Lineship captain who is being considered as the new captain of the Eleven and an enemy agent who is attempting to get a hold of Ean to explain to the GU exactly who and what he is and how he's doing it.

There's a term for this sort of book: competence porn. The good guys are really good at what they do, and in almost all cases, the best at what they do. Even the bad guys are really, really good, just not as good at it as the good guys. There's a very narrow line that these authors work deftly to dance upon where the good guys get challenged and the bad guys still lose. For context, this is the same sort of thing that goes on in the Miles Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold. I don't think anyone would complain about being compared with that brilliant series and I eagerly devoured this one much as I devour every Miles book I get my hands on.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,217 reviews164 followers
January 22, 2022
One of my favourite series to re-read when RL is too much! It works every time. I also love how the authors use synaesthesia for Ean’s experience with the lines, something I’ve always found fascinating. Add to this that the lead is just so likeable! :O)

Having loved the first instalment in the series, I had high expectations for this novel, and fears. Would it be as compelling??? Short answer - YES!

Once more we follow the extremely likeable Ean in his tribulations. The narration is this time shared between him, Captain Kari Wang, a complex protagonist dealing with loss in all its shapes, and an assassin contracted to kidnap Lambert. The authors have put together an excellent story, keeping some of the same faces, pushing others to the background while not loosing them completely, and introducing new ones, some very colourful. The political context, following on from the previous explosive events and the creation of the New Alliance, is as complex and teeming with big egos, all vying for the biggest share in power. And the lines... of course, are still completely fascinating!
Profile Image for Justine.
1,103 reviews294 followers
April 11, 2017
4.5 stars

So, so good. A completely satisfying follow-up to Linesman.

Always the worry with a second book is whether it will meet the expectations set out by the first. Alliance completely met those expectations. The story picks up right from where Linesman left off, continuing a story of complex political machinations mixed nicely with interpersonal stories. The multilayered world created by the Dunstall sisters continues to reveal itself, while characters (both new and returning) remain as compelling as ever.

Ean remains the focal character, and while some things have changed, he remains an earnest and imminently likeable person. Michelle, Abram, and Rossi are mostly sidelined in this story, although they clearly remain important in the overall scheme of things. Captain Selma Kari Wang is an intriguing character, whose personal damage is something I really want to see her overcome. One of the things I love about these books is how the characters are so very human and flawed, and I genuinely want to see them succeed.

I still have one more book to read, Confluence, but I'm already so excited about this series and all the potential it has that I hope there will be even more books to come.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,295 reviews29 followers
June 3, 2017
Another fun space opera, told in 3rd person POV. The story includes sentient power "lines" and humans who've colonized dozens of planets. Also there's some alien technology, some military maneuvering, espionage, and murderous treachery. The science is soft and glossed over.

The story is interesting and heartwarming, with some humor and some dangerous, suspenseful scenes. I was expecting more action in the second book in the series, and I expected to learn more about the alien spaceships, but there was enough going on to hold my interest.

The hero Ean is likable. He is surrounded by solid secondary characters: Radko (Ean's bodyguard), Fergus on line 7, Mael and Tinatin (one-line-wonders), Captain Keri Wang, Princess Michelle, Captain Helmo, Admiral Abram, Admiral Kitida, the new security commodore Vega, linesman Jordon Rossi, Ean's previous employer Rigel, and an old girl-friend.

No cliffhanger. The plot ends on a finished note. I'd be interested in a third book in the series. I want to learn more about the creatures on the alien ships. We need to assign a crew to the lonely Confluence fleet — the alien ships — and find out what damaged them. And I want to know who Ean is — why can he speak to ship lines? What did professor Gerrard learn about dark matter, before he was murdered?

“Gerrard’s other passion was dark matter,” Abram said. “It’s expensive to research... What we do know is that five years ago, someone put up the money for his research, and he never mentioned the Havortian again.”

Good audio narration by Brian Hutchinson.

This book reminded me of The Liaden Universe series, with the sentient tree. If you liked that series, you will probably like this one.
Profile Image for Hank.
766 reviews68 followers
March 16, 2019
Well bummer. The flaws are starting to glare a bit more. The writing is truly atrocious, I am not sure who to blame, the writers, the seemingly missing editor or Aunt Sally the proofreader. Miss-spellings (of course who am I to talk), whole paragraphs and even an entire chapter that makes no sense. There was one part where a spy was listening in to two different conversations at the same time and the authors clearly wanted to do something clever, switching back and forth between the two creating some tension. All they created was a headache and indecipherable text.

Still love the story, still love the characters, still love the world but the shine is definitely off. I still read it in less than a day and went right on to the third book but I won't be shouting the merits from the rooftops
Profile Image for Mei.
1,879 reviews404 followers
March 23, 2016
Great!!! As much as the first book!
I loved, loved the mix of SF, with politics!
I'm so looking forward to reading what happens next!!!!
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,892 reviews1,209 followers
December 13, 2016
Oh my god give me all these books I want this entire series on my shelf right now. Alliance builds on the exciting promise made by S.K. Dunstall in Linesman to bring us a new space opera series that is bold both in its vision of interstellar politics and its cool SF technology. After a long time avoiding space opera (except to catch up on the good stuff I’ve missed) because of the overgrown weeds of nanotech posthumanism, I’m so happy to be enthusiastic about a brand new entry into this subgenre. While this particular instalment of the series didn’t excite me quite as much as Linesman, returning to Ean’s world and his quest to change humanity’s relationship to the alien lines is still a thrilling experience. As usual, no spoilers for this book, but spoilers for the previous one abound.

Picking up a few months after the ending of Linesman, Alliance shows us a human galaxy in a state of warmed-over cold war. Gate Union and the New Alliance are technically at war but basically not outright fighting, with each hoping that the other will blink. Smart money seems to be on Gate Union, since it controls the assignment of jumps—but the New Alliance’s privileged access to a fleet of alien ships throws a big unknown into this assessment. And so Dunstall immediately establishes the stakes: you know, nothing short of massive interstellar conflict and death and injury on a staggering scale. No pressure, Ean.

Whereas, in the first book, Ean is largely a marginalized figure who suddenly finds himself in the spotlight, Alliance sees him adapting to his more prominent role. He is in charge of training linesmen (and people passed over for line training) in his much-maligned method of singing to the lines. As this takes traction among the Alliance contingent, a faction within Gate Union plots to kidnap Ean and steal his secrets. But they fundamentally misunderstand both his role within the Alliance and the key to his skills, meaning that their kidnapping attempts fail comically. Meanwhile, any number of smaller schemes between factions or groups of individuals within the New Alliance threaten to impinge on Ean and his team’s attempts to master the alien ships they suddenly have access to. This last includes the political decision over who to appoint captain of the alien flagship, the Eleven. Who better than a traumatized captain only recently recovered from losing her ship in a sneak attack?

Looking back on that last paragraph, I marvel now at Dunstall’s ability to fit so much into such a confined volume! When reading the book, it didn’t really feel like a lot was happening. Yet there is so much; there are so many minor players and pawns involved, people I didn’t even mention—it is really a testament to the skill of sisters Sherylyn and Karen that they manage to keep it all together as a cohesive narrative. We’re not quite talking A Song of Ice and Fire level complexity here—Dunstall sensibly keeps the narration following Ean and Selma Kari Wang, for the most part, with a few interjections from third parties. Nevertheless, Alliance has a decent plot density that really contributes to what people often talk about when they toss around terms like worldbuilding. Without going into too much exposition about this universe, Dunstall manages to describe its functioning simply through the progression of the plot itself. Love it.

We learn a little bit more about the functions of the lines. Most of the developments, however, centre on Ean’s relationship to the other linesmen and how his training will affect their profession. I like the juxtaposition of Ean’s disruptive program with his cartel dealings with the Rickenback, Paretus, and Rigel. One really gets the sense that we’re in the middle of this intense paradigm shift in how humanity uses the lines. Outright mind-blowing revelation scenes are few and far between, but there are just so many moments of varying subtlety to indicate how the lines are more complex than linesmen have traditionally believed. From Ean’s observations of the captains of the Eleven’s fleet to the would-be kidnappers underestimating Ean’s abilities, it is clear that in this incipient war, technology might not be the determining factor so much as the ability to adapt to these new circumstances.

Some of my favourite characters, like Abram and Michelle, are more sidelined in this book. That makes me a little sad. This is the type of series, though, where the author will eternally have the dilemma of wanting to give a little fan service by giving us the same-old, same-old that we crave and actually challenging us by opening up new vistas. Abram’s promotion and subsequent replacement by Vega creates some necessary new conflict in Ean and Michelle’s life. I just wish we got more of these characters than we did! Still, I’m optimistic they will play larger roles next time around. Conversely, I could have done with even less of Stellan. His incompetence verged on dull at times. I admire how Dunstall uses his failure to emphasize the fundamentally flawed approach that Markan is taking to dealing with Ean and the Alliance. Nevertheless, he himself verges on a kind of buffoonish caricature of a villain, in my opinion. Hopefully as the war heats up we’ll see more sides to him.

Alliance introduces a new, significant protagonist in Selma Kari Wang. She complements Ean very well in so many respects. I also love how Ean is initially very excited by the way Eleven seems ready to bond with her, but when she inadvertently threatens the safety of the ship/fleet, he suddenly gets super protective. The fluidity and fragility of their fledgling relationship feels very real and organic. Similarly, Selma initially views Ean as a Lancastrian puppet and a know-it-all Level 10 linesman; she has no idea of what has happened in recent months because of her injuries. So she has to get up to speed, and both of them will gradually have to develop a working respect (one would hope).

If there is one thing I want to get across here, it’s the marvellous and myriad ways Dunstall creates and takes advantage of the opportunities for conflict within Alliance. In addition to the over-arching galactic conflict, there are so many little conflicts among minor characters, between people who are supposed to be allies, etc. Whether it’s the frenemy bromance brewing between Ean and Jordan Rossi or the grating tension between Ean and Vega, there are so many little sparks that could potentially become fires. Note that it’s the potential that matters: if everything developed into a full-blown subplot this book really would be longer than Game of Thrones … rather, Dunstall artfully picks and chooses which conflicts to emphasize and which to let simmer on the backburner, much like in real life. (And so we come to the dirty secret of space opera: it’s more about opera than it is about space; human conflicts, human stories, are the bread and butter. The “space” is just an excuse for everyone to wear form-fitting catsuits.)

Alliance did not wow me quite as much as Linesman did, that much is true. That’s partly just because Linesman was that good, though; don’t think of Alliance as worse, but simply as building off that platform. It furthers the story arc of the series and has kept me excited—so much so, in fact, that I pre-ordered Confluence, out in November, because I want that book as soon as I can get it, and, since there’s no point in owning just the third book in a series, I’ve bought these first two books as well.

I don’t know if this is a trilogy or an ongoing series—I eternally hold out hope for the latter, but even if it’s the former, I’ve high hopes for Confluence. Alliance left me with several questions, most of which I won’t get into so as to avoid spoilers, but here are the biggies: when will we meet aliens, and why hasn’t humanity run into them before?

I am looking forward to finding out!

My reviews of the Linesman series:
Linesman | Confluence

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for Ivan.
359 reviews55 followers
March 4, 2016
Alliance is a bit slower and less interesting read than the previous novel in the series, but it still manages to capture both old-school space opera and humanistic approach to science fiction and fantasy that is sorely lacking in the fields of space opera and military sf.

This one is, perhaps unfortunately, all about the world building - or perhaps the space ship building, so the characters are put firmly in the second place, although the new character of captain Kari Wang has her moments to shine. There are several new characters as well, but underdeveloped (one feels).

I expected more developments concerning the Lancastrian Empire and it's princess, but that was lacking as well.

Although I enjoyed this book a lot, I can not shake a feeling that it suffers from the "second book in a trilogy" sindrom. It does very little to further the plot or to develop the characters, almost as its purpose was to set the stage for further books in the series and to introduce us to another character who will play a large part in the novels to come.

Nevertheless, Alliance was entertaining read and quite nicely written, so I expect more good things to come from the keyboard of S. K. Dunstall.
Profile Image for Meera.
1,085 reviews10 followers
May 13, 2020
The reviews were a bit mixed on this so I wasn’t sure what I was going to get but I enjoyed this. Ean did grow up in this or at least he was in less situations where he was completely helpless. But I did notice another weird trend continuing from the last book - bad guys who get captured somehow usually escape behind the scenes and not much detail is given. It was weird. It’s as if the authors wanted that to happen but didn’t feel like giving plot time to make it more believable. Oh well. The rest of the novel was good. This wasn’t as fast paced as the first book but I enjoyed kind of relaxing with the slower story and the old and the new characters. We learned some new things about the lines and about the players in the conflict. This was a typical second book, kind of a place holder but I liked it. It’s too bad there are only 3 books in this series because I’m enjoying this world.
Profile Image for Cathy .
1,944 reviews52 followers
March 9, 2016
FYI for anyone with vision issues: the font in the printed edition is very small. If you're buying the book, it would be worth spending the extra money for the ebook edition for this one. I was frequently tempted to pop for the $7.99 myself (I hate publishers that charge more for ebooks than print, the print was only $6.37 at the time of this review) even though I had the library book in hand.

I definitely recommend reading the first book first with this one, don't jump into this second book cold. It gets right into singing the lines and it never really explains what that is or what the lines are, it won't make much sense to you without the background. There isn't any recap about who the people are as well, you have to try and pick up who Fergus, Michelle, Katida, Orsaya, etc., are, and more importantly who they are to Ean. But for me, having read the first book, it felt like they did an OK job of refreshing things without coming anywhere close to recaps. I have a terrible memory but as it went along it all was came back to me even though they never said something like, this lady is this admiral that Ean always has breakfast with, don't you remember? And that other woman is the admiral who likes to sleep with all of the high level linesman, everyone knows that, don't you remember, dear reader? That one was hinted at but not stated outright, they talked about her reputation but didn't say what it was, so new readers would totally miss it. It all came back to me eventually, but a bit of recap would have been helpful instead of just forging straight ahead. They did explain the political situation sufficiently, that would have been too much for me to recall. They did a good job of working that into the story, no infodumps. But I'd have liked to see more of Ean recalling his relationships with the people or something that indicated who they were. And new readers would miss so much. They'd probably enjoy the story well enough, it could be complete in and of itself to a certain degree. But they wouldn't understand the significance of the battle for Ean's contract with the cartel, anything about how amazing discovering the Eleven was, how the fleet got tied together and what that meant, why Ean being a twelve means so much, and so many other things.

As for the story, I enjoyed the book a lot, as I did with the first one. I think they (the authors are sisters) have a lot of great ideas and I'm excited to see where their careers go. It's not perfect though, I think they're still learning this craft. Ean is still too naive and idealistic for a slum kid, all wrapped up in his lines, seemingly much younger than his years would indicate. And it was a little scattered. Was it about people trying to kill Ean? Or kidnap Ean? Or kill the new captain? Or line seven? Or the new crew members? Or the Eleven and needing a crew? And the new head of security? She's a peach. Or the cartel wanting Ean back? Or the war? Or so many other things that were going on. That doesn't even include the politics. The complexity is good on one hand, it's a realistic universe that isn't over-simplified. There wasn't any storyline that felt fake or out of place. It felt like a space opera should, a rich and complex interstellar story. But it was a bit scattered. And it ended with a real whimper, the last few pages stunk. It was just a tiny bit of political maneuvering, nothing dramatic, nothing that left an impression or made me excited for the next book. There was a bit of foreshadowing that a super minor character that I don't care about at all is going to cause trouble in the future. But compared to the interplanetary war brewing, I'm sure she'll be a pain in the neck but it isn't the thing that's going to get me to rush out to get the next book. Something wild about the lines or the ships, something poignant about the great new captain Kari Wang (who didn't even get a wrap up/lead into the next book), anything else would have been better. I'm excited for the next book, don't get me wrong, but it's not because of the last couple of pages. It was a good book and it's an exciting series. But I think this book suffered a bit more for the authors being new writers than the first one did. Or maybe they had a harder time working together, and trying to include all of both of their ideas was part of the problem. I don't know, but it was a little bit rougher than the first one. But still really interesting and fun and highly recommended.
Profile Image for Anne - Books of My Heart.
2,878 reviews190 followers
February 26, 2016
Review at The Book Nympho:


I waited about 5 minutes to start Alliance after finishing Linesman. (My review https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ) I had already requested the arc after starting Linesman because I knew right away. I HAD to know more. About 92% of the way into this book, I already felt the terror of it ending and not knowing when the next book would be available so I went to the Internet. After much reading, I found the possible title of the third book, but no tentative release time. *Panics*

I try not to write spoilery reviews and I don’t repeat stuff you can read in the blurb. So that leaves me with talking about the characters and the writing and my feelings. And here, it’s all good.

Ean continues to learn and grow in Alliance which is the VERY best thing for a character. He also continues to surprise people. And I still care about him and worry over him.

There are more perspectives from others here. The world is also growing. There are more military politics and some more people get shocked by Ean and the world he has brought forth.

Highly recommended. I can’t wait for the next book!

Giggle worthy quote:

Sale moved over to check Mael, who’d gone green again. She handed him a sick bag. “You’ll be fine,” Sale said, and her voice was almost gentle. “The lines haven’t killed anyone yet. Not like this, anyway.”
“He’d probably like some sandwiches, “Ean said, remembering back to his own earlier jumps. Food had helped.

Mael groaned and clutched the bag closer.

“Yes,” Ean said. “He needs sandwiches.”

Sale flicked on her comms. “Note to self. Sandwiches in the linesman’s survival kit.” She flicked off.

Ean looked at her, wondering if she was joking.

Fergus hid a snort of laughter. “Let’s hope they don’t carry the same set of sandwiches around for weeks.”

“You would be surprised at how long food can last in space, Fergus,” Sale said.

“I don’t think I would,” Fergus said.

Profile Image for Suz.
2,221 reviews67 followers
November 5, 2017
4.5 stars
This is a wonderful story that I'm enjoying immensely. It's not heart stopping or wrenching, just an entertaining and engaging space opera with an interesting premise and likeable characters, read by a competent and easy to lose yourself in narrator.

I'm going to jump right into book 3.
Profile Image for Debrac2014.
1,846 reviews10 followers
July 24, 2016
I loved it! Love Ean and his singing linesmen! Captain Song got what she deserved!
Profile Image for Erin Burns.
402 reviews32 followers
December 15, 2018
Linesman (much like Dark Horse) was a breakout surprise for me last year. It just blew me away and I can't count how many times I have re-read it since. So seeing the next one on Amazon was an immediate pre-order.

I jumped in as soon as I got home from work, and I was quite surprised we didn't start with Ean Lambert. All of the last book was from his perspective, so I just wasn't ready for Captain Selma Kari Wang. Fortunately she completely rocks, a completely in charge woman, and it was a hell of an introduction. Any doubts I might have had about how Dunstall would write from a female perspective were immediately dispelled.

As for the main action, we get right back to Ean and the New Alliance quickly, the action is exciting, Ean's self deprecating charm is still a hit, and the politics are still simply fascinating. Seriously, I can not quite come up with the words to express how fascinating the political parts are, but it is one of my favorite aspects of this series. And the lines and the way Dunstall is building them and the linesman are a close tie for interest.

When we head back to Kari though, it is a gut punch, and I am highly impressed with how the author was able to weave such an emotional connection between the reader and this woman in such few words. While Ean was a man who needed to grow, Kari is a woman broken down to nothing who rebuilds herself...despite herself.

Secondary characters are also coming into their own fleshing out an already interesting world. It will be interesting to see how the Eleven's crew shakes out, some of them are a delight

The only thing I didn't like about this book was the ending. Nothing negative, and no cliffhanger, it just came to a conclusion rather than a climax. But I can live with it, and I am in fact giving it 5 stars. I an hoping desperately Dunstall can keep creating at this rate.
Profile Image for Kim.
682 reviews27 followers
May 12, 2016
I was very excited to read Alliance. Linesman had set such a wonderful stage and story, and I was looking forward to the building of that story.

Unfortunately, Alliance is a somewhat disappointing sophomore effort. It’s not that the book is bad, it’s rather decent, but it’s lacks the momentum and page turning excitement of Linesman.

I think the heart of the issue with Alliance is that it should have been a novella or short story instead of a full blown novel, or, as a novel, it should have had another aspect of the story woven into it.

It reminded me of reading one of the later Robert Jordan Wheel of Time books, reading a thousand pages and having almost nothing at all happen.

There was some interesting developments of our understanding of how the lines work, but like the rest of the book, this was drawn out and not terribly exciting.

The ending was also utterly predictable, and because the buildup was so long and slow, the payoff was rather unsatisfying.

If you enjoyed Linesman, don’t give up. I’m still looking forward to book three, and there have been plenty of series with disappointing second books that have bounced back. With that in mind I’d say Alliance is worth a skim, if only in preparation for the next one.
Profile Image for Laura (Kyahgirl).
2,040 reviews143 followers
April 14, 2016
4.5/5; 5 stars; A

This one was even better than the first one, in my opinion, because it didn't have so many confusing machinations going on from every direction. It was clear that there was an unknown enemy and something was going on beside the New Alliance/Gate Union conflict but it wasn't distracting.

Usually I like my books with some romantic elements but this has none. Still, the people and relationships really intrigued me. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters from the previous books as well as the ones introduced here. I can't wait for the next book, due in November!
Profile Image for Ju Transcendancing.
443 reviews18 followers
December 27, 2019
I loved this book, a great follow up to the first book in the series. The political intrigue with the background of having a key protagnonist be highly empathic and not very good at fighting is fantasitc. I'm loving the largely female supporting cast and they're getting to be awesome and different in command ways, fighting and strength ways and various other things. The interpersonal storylines as well as the epic space opera is very satisfying here. I'm reminded of McCaffrey's 'Crystal Singer' books here, in a good way. Loved this series, one of the best I read this year.
Profile Image for Jamie Rich.
376 reviews1 follower
April 26, 2020
Alliance (Linesman #2) by S.K. Dunstall

Our erstwhile band of very reluctant heroes are coming to terms with the main protagonist's very unusual methods for handling the "lines" of a starship. So is our main hero, who sees to have a rather typical geek's love for his craft, and scant attention to all those mess humans around him.
Still feeling way out of his depth, ean Lamber nonetheless has to choose to grow as a person. Whether dealing with the lines, or the people surrounding him, he barely manages to get things done. Albeit not in the manner that most people would prefer.
Profile Image for Paula.
733 reviews63 followers
February 26, 2016
I have been looking forward to this book since I finished the first one. This had lots of action and lots of discoveries but over all didn't move the plot forward as much as I was hoping for. That being said I still loved the story, world building and the characters. Now I'm waiting for the next one.
Profile Image for Gena.
649 reviews15 followers
June 23, 2017
Awesome addition to the series. It did add a lot of new characters and there was a lot of plot which I enjoyed. I wish the book had been longer to include some character development for Ean and the other main ones. I felt like they stayed stagnant. Hopefully the next book combines both.

Re-read today. It just keeps getting better each time I read it :)
Profile Image for Sense361.
267 reviews12 followers
February 27, 2016
Amazing. It ended up being one of my favorites. I really love the story and characters. It won my undivided attention from the page one. I wish there were more books like that.
Profile Image for Michelle.
40 reviews
June 30, 2020
Not as good as the first book. Suffered from second book syndrome but still kept me interested and surprised. I can’t wait to read the next one.
Profile Image for John B..
110 reviews8 followers
December 27, 2016
1.7 stars, rounding up to a 2 star rating. There were times when reading this felt like a school assignment. Class meets three days a week. It has been so long since I have been to class that I forget which room it is in, and when I finally arrive in class I am under dressed and there is an important test on the last ten chapters of this book, which was a chore to read. I wake from my dream and realize that I have finally finished the book and can now get on with life.

I liked S.K. Dunstall's Linesman, giving it three stars in Goodreads and looked forward to reading Alliance. There is writing and there is story telling, and I prefer my fiction books use writing in propelling the story along. The writing takes on the feel of a character study, a collection of vignettes that loosely carry the story and at intervals the action. It reads, as one reviewer stated, as "a somewhat disappointing sophomore effort. It’s not that the book is bad, ... but it lacks the momentum and page turning excitement of Linesman." Reading this book felt like eating my vegetables... I know there are nutrients to nourish and satisfy the mind's need to process stories, but I might have preferred this particular vegy roasted instead of boiled. And to mix metaphors, boiler plate comes to mind. Were the authors getting paid by the word?

The writing often draws attention to itself at the expense of the story and the reader's attention. Based on the high review ratings on Goodreads, I must conclude that the story and focus the author's wanted to share wasn't the story I was expecting based on reading the first Linesman book. Early in the book we meet Selma Kari Wang who will become a major character. Her slow recovery and healing, both physical and mental, feature outsize roles in the narrative.

Much has changed between the writing of Linesman and Alliance, both in the Linesman universe and in the contemporary SF reading market. The concept of sentient ship has become popular in the 2016 SF genre and the content of Alliance seems to have been shaped and bent by what I will call the Ann Leckie effect. The book companies want to tap into the SF genre flavor of he month, and in doing so have [allowed, encouraged, mandated] aspects be included in the story that in many ways are derivative of concepts woven into Ann Leckie's Ancilliary books.

I found it incredibly difficult to get into this book. It should not take the authors more than 100 pages to hook the reader into the story, especially when the reader enjoyed the first book in this series. Because the storyline is moving slowly and haltingly, I find myself having time to note the "scenery and props" that, on many occasions, overshadow or distract from the storytelling. A key scene, where Admiral MacClennan needs to sell Captain Selma Kari Wang on her next assignment, should have snapped and crackled as two highly driven, successful soldiers clash. The admiral, seeking to ensure the success of his latest ambition, attempting to persuade the broken captain to rise up and get back in the saddle has tremendous potential. Consider the background noise that bleeds away the energy and life of what structurally seems like a sound approach for the two characters. The key dialog is "You're telling me this is a life-or-death situation." with the response "No, Captain, this is politics, pure and simple. I can't tell you much about this mission." What comes through makes me wonder what the authors are trying to achieve.

He pressed something on his comms, and, a moment later, an aide came in with two glasses of tea--which he couldn't possibly have had time to make in between the order and delivery. The tea was hot. [She] left hers on the desk to cool. Like most spacers, she preferred her tea lukewarm, where if something untoward happened -like an unexpected gravity fluctuation--it wouldn't burn you if it slopped out of the glass. The admiral drank his hot. He'd been a long time out of space. Her tea wasn't cool enough yet, but she drank it anyway. It burned her tongue. "This isn't about decency. It's about politics." He finished his tea in one long draught although it must have been hot...

After reading through this scene a couple of times I shake my head in disappointment...their last book was better. To help the reader understand my level of ennui with this book, what I find most interesting in the above scene is the author's word choice. Glasses for hot tea instead of cups. In my review of Ancilliary Mercy I discounted the complaints from others on the overuse of tea in the story. Here I find myself being distracted as tea inserts itself into the scene and in some cases pulls focus away from the character interaction. For all the sentences that invoke tea, neither the story nor the character benefits. Where is a good editor when you need one? Can it be the Australian word choice and spelling used by the writers is more interesting than this installment of the Linesman series?

The concept of 'the lines' has morphed in this book. Now lines are everywhere. Lines are the focus of cursing. Lines are omniscient. And yet lines are subservient like a pet horse. No not even like a pet horse. A horse would exhibit personality and the lines are stripped of personality. Lines are fashionable. Everyone agrees lines don't work that way, and yet in the next sentence the character proceeds to do exactly that with the lines.

Captain Kari Wang has issues with communication devices. Every time she drops her comm device it breaks and she needs to borrow a loaner to call for support. One begins to suspect that Apple iPhones have been provided to New Alliance personnel. It may be natural for readers to desire more technology in their SF stories and author attempts to please their readers on this point can be seen as a fast-acting elixir that has many side effects. Too often in this book I found myself responding to characters using their comms with the thought 'this is exactly how we use cell phones today.' I don't expect SF authors to forecast the future, nor do I expect the future to be painted in great detail. What I prefer, is that the author paint their story scenes and props with a broad brush that gives just enough detail to push the story along, and yet leave room for the reader's imagination to fill in the detail. Here, detail was provided in abundance and the future looks, and feels, like a naval port city in the first decade of the twenty-first century with a long history of hosting ships (and tourists) from many disparate nations. As a creative writing assignment, this has some level of interest, but in terms of story telling it becomes a burden that imparts a hefty dose of inertia to the narrative.
Profile Image for Minh.
1,208 reviews26 followers
May 31, 2017
The Linesman series manages to maintain a delicate balance between varying POV, it's usually a tactic that usually annoys me as inevitably you end up stuck with one character who no one cares about. In this case Kari Wang swept me off my feet and I raced through the novel to keep up with both her and Ean.

Captain of the Kari Wang and sole survivor of a mysterious attack which sliced her ship in half (taking her legs with it), Kari is caught up in the scheming of the New Alliance and is assigned to be Captain of the Eleven, the mysterious alien ship discovered and recovered by Ean Lambert, a level 12 line. Again there's a lot of political maneuvering about the place but I just wanted to read more about the Lines themselves!
Profile Image for Elena Linville.
Author 1 book51 followers
February 26, 2016
You can find this review and more on my blog.

First of all, can I squeee like a fangirl that the second book in this series if finally out? OMG OMG, I'm so happy!!!! Ahem, now that I got that off my chest, let's proceed with the review, shall we? :)

I read and absolutely loved Linesman, the first book in this series, and you can read my raving review here if you want, so I had been waiting for Alliance with bated breath. I am happy to say that I haven't been disappointed. I burned through that book in three days, and I would have finished earlier, but I had to work, eat, sleep, and exercise as well. I absolutely loved it! I would have given it 10 stars if I was judging books in a 10 star scale.

But let's stop digressing and dive into the story, shall we?

Alliance picks up a few weeks after the end of Linesman. There's been a major power shift in the different fractions that share the known space, with several words forming the New Alliance and going against Gate Union. The conflict hasn't degenerated into a full blown war yet, but it's mostly because Gate Union is confident that they can suffocate the New Alliance by cutting their access to the jump gates. And the New Alliance is still trying to figure out how to use the alien ships they had discovered in book 1. Because the problem is that Ean managed to link several human ships to the Eleven (the alien line ship), but he has no idea how to unlink them and let them move separately. They all jump together or not at all. Kinda hard to wage a war when your fleet can't break formation isn't it?

I love that we start this book exactly where the previous one left off, because this is such a complex word and Linesman raised to many interesting questions about the true nature of lines and the way linesmen interacted with them. I'm happy that the author chose to explore that further in Alliance. And we finally learn what line seven does! It's not as useless as everyone had assumed for nearly 500 years, and proves to be quite crucial in some rather tense situations.

I also loved that we got more development into the relationship that grows between a captain and his or her ship. It was hinted in the first book that a captain bonds with his ship and that the lines end up reflecting a bit of the captains distinct personality. That's why Captain Helmo immediately noticed when Ean touched on of the lines on the Lancastrian Princess without his approval in book 1.

In Alliance, we discover that captains pretty much bound with their ship for life, that's why once you assume captainship of a ship, you never move anywhere else. Ship = Captain, hence the instances of "mad ships" when captains die in an accident or are killed, and why captains usually don't survive the destruction of their ship.

And here comes Captain Selma Kari Wang, the only survivor of a vicious attack on her ship. She lost her legs, she lost her crew, she lost her ship, and with that, she lost her soul and her will to continue living. But to her dismay, the New Alliance wants to put her on the alien ship Eleven. Putting an experienced captain on a brand new ship is never done, but political struggles in the New Alliance play so that nobody asks her about her opinion on the matter. So she is sent on a ship she doesn't want or care about, that nobody else understands either, when all she wants is to crawl in a hole and die.

Of course, she clashes with Ean, who has a dilemma now. He knows that the lines are more sentient than anybody has ever thought, and that ships need a captain and crew to be happy. But they need a good captain and a close-knit crew. He knows that the alien ships are lonely and crying to be manned and used. He knows that there is a deficit of captains out there and that the crewing of such a strategic ship will be mired in political jostling and problems. But he can't accept a captain that doesn't want or appreciate her ship, or who is borderline suicidal…

But those problems have to be put on the back burner when somebody seems very determined to kidnap Ean, and when Gate Unions keeps jumping suicide ships into the Eleven's fleet in an effort to destroy it in one swift explosion.

All my favorite characters are back, some minor characters from book one get more development and step up to play major roles, and we are introduced to a few awesome new characters as well, like Selma Kari Wang.

The story is fast-paced and full of tense moments, so much so that I couldn't put it down. I HAD to start the next chapter and see where the story was going as soon as finished the previous one.

So if you are looking for a cracktastic sci-fi series to start, I would recommend picking up Linesman and Alliance at the same time, and you are guaranteed at least a week of exciting reading.

PS. I received an advanced reader copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Martha.
788 reviews44 followers
March 10, 2017
This is a strong, engaging installment continuing from The Linesman. My rating 4.5.

Ean is busy building his relationship with the alien lines while training Rossi, Fergus and other linesmen how to communicate through singing rather than thought manipulation. Abram has been promoted and required to leave the Lancastrian Princess. The new bodyguard for Michelle sees Ean as a dangerous weapon and a major risk. She is intent on getting him off Michelle’s ship and it looks like Ean will be sent as the primary linesman on the alien ship known as the Eleven.

The New Alliance leadership has recruited a mixed crew from all the allies to learn to operate the Eleven. Although not everyone supports the assignment, Captain Selma Kari Wang, a traumatically wounded officer, has been chosen as the captain. Selma is the sole survivor of an attack that destroyed her former ship. Suffering from survivor’s guilt, she doesn’t want a new ship. But Eleven, and its powerful lines, are ready to accept Selma as Captain and have already begun to respond to her even though she doesn’t ‘sing’ to the lines. The ship and those working on it are endangered when Selma’s negativity impacts the lines. Ean and friends recognize new abilities in the Eleven and ask to make some dangerous tests.

While the linesmen and new crew are training, Selma faces some unusual mishaps. It appears that someone, in addition to Selma, does not want her to become the new captain of Eleven. Two ‘odd’ members of the new crew, an old salt linesman and a young, passionate woman, who could be his daughter (granddaughter?), come to the rescue of Captain Selma and adopt her as theirs to protect.

An assassin still lurks in the shadows and Ean is almost kidnapped again. Other leaders stage a coup to gain back some control and a powerful enemy is exposed. It’s all part of the intrigue and danger that Ean deals with on a regular basis.

I loved book two as much as book one and stayed glued listening whenever I could. I really like Ean and his close companions, including the new quirky crew members. This book did not have as much action and suspense as book one but it had enough that added to the character developments to keep it interesting and to keep me fully engaged.

I do recommend reading the series in order as this book would lose a lot if a reader hasn’t read The Linesman. I am really looking forward to book three, The Confluence, even as I fear I will be sorry when it ends.

Audio Notes: Once again, Brian Hutchinson does a very good job with the narration. Once or twice I think I noted a missed character voice but for the most part he kept them all straight. He also kept good pacing even through the slower scenes in this installment. I love this series on audio and have already picked up book three.

I received this audio book from the publisher for an honest review.
Profile Image for John Purvis.
1,120 reviews18 followers
May 9, 2017
“Alliance” eBook was published in 2016 and was written by S. K. Dunstall (http://www.skdunstall.com). This is the pseudonym for Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall. Together they have published three novels in their “Linesman” series. This is the second in the series.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘PG’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story is set in the far future with humanity spread out into the stars. The “Lines” are what enable starship travel and “Linesman” control and take care of the Lines. The primary character in the story is Linesman Ean Lambert.

Though he was thought to have little skill, he discovered that there were more than 10 lines and found a new, more effective way of communicating with them (the subject of the first novel in the series "Linesman"). In this second volume of the series, Lambert must train wary Linesmen in his new technique as well as defend himself from attacks. War has been declared between the fledgling New Alliance and the Gate Union, but while the tension is high, military action is still only a threat.

Lambert must maneuver a difficult path. He is the center of much turmoil between the new head of Crown Princess Michelle’s security team Commodore Vega, stalking kidnappers and political intrigue.

I enjoyed the 11 hours I spent with this 390 page Science Fiction novel. I liked the characters and the concept of the Lines. The cover art is OK, but really only relates to a small part of the story. I give this novel a 4.2 (rounded down to a 4) out of 5.

Further book reviews I have written can be accessed at https://johnpurvis.wordpress.com/blog/.
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