The novel “Valhalla Station” by David Bruns and Chris Pourteau was published for the first time in 2019. It’s the fourth book in The SynCorp Saga series and follows “Hostile Takeover“. It’s also the first book in the Empire Earth trilogy.
The leaders of the large factions that make up SynCorp rule the solar system by dividing powers. On the surface, everyone is satisfied a quarter of a century after the Earth was saved from a climate catastrophe. However, an attack in the mines on Mars clearly indicates that there are rebels and this is only their most sensational action.
Ming Qinlao is dying from the long-term consequences of the radiation poisoning she suffered many years earlier. Her brother Ruben supports her but the moment arrives when Tony Taulke demands that Ruben officially become the new leader. The replacement takes place at a delicate moment in which the balance in the solar system is in danger of collapsing.
“Valhalla Station” begins a new trilogy within The SynCorp Saga series set many years after the first one. The new story has deep roots in the events told in the first books but the leap forward in time makes it possible to start the series from this book. However, starting from the beginning remains the best choice.
In what appears to be a perfect balance of powers, the leaders who emerged during the years of the crisis recounted in the first trilogy rule not only the Earth but also the other parts of the solar system that have been colonized. The new story begins when that balance starts faltering.
From the beginning, The SynCorp Saga has been marked by the development of themes that project into the future problems that exist in our society today. In “Valhalla Station” the extreme power of corporations, which in that future extend far beyond the Earth, is central. The population has “bread and circus” but must comply with corporate laws that don’t leave much freedom of choice.
Like the first trilogy, this first book of the second trilogy follows different points of view. There’s a continuity with some protagonists who were already present in one or more previous books and there are also new protagonists. Stacks Fischer is one of the new protagonists and is used by the authors to explore the situation on the frontier. He travels to those areas on Tony Taulke’s orders because he’s his hitman trusted to carry out rigorously unofficial special missions that require a certain type of results to be obtained at any cost.
The mix of points of view offers a complete portrait of that future, the difficult balance of powers, the new clashes that threaten years of stability, and above all the elite who hold power. If you have already read the first trilogy, you can fully appreciate the consequences of the events told in the first books. Between action and twists, the authors slowly reveal the factions that face each other in this new story. After a start made of sabotage and subterfuge, the clash becomes more and more open.
In my opinion, the authors handled well the various subplots of “Valhalla Station” by telling the first results of the new power clashes, which gives more substance to this book. At the same time, there’s an open ending which indicates that some narrative threads will be developed over the course of the sequels. David Bruns and Chris Pourteau are good at mixing action and food for thought while also creating high expectations for the next books. For these reasons, I keep on recommending the saga to readers interested in these themes, especially if you appreciate novels that are not very long, and are ready to continue reading the story with the next books.