The novel “Masada’s Gate” by David Bruns and Chris Pourteau was published for the first time in 2019. It’s the fifth book in The SynCorp Saga series and follows “Valhalla Station“. It’s also the second book in the Empire Earth trilogy.
Ruben Qinlao and Tony Taulke have landed on the Moon but it’s not easy to hide from Cassandra’s revolutionary soldiers even though Ruben spent a lot of time there. Time plays against them because, in the inner solar system, SynCorp’s power seems to have fallen everywhere. Kwazi Jabari, labeled the hero of Mars, becomes the face of the revolution against SynCorp.
Titan represents one of SynCorp’s last great strongholds, and Masada, a space station orbiting that moon, offers the means that make a stand against the enemy possible. Stacks Fischer is sent to help protect SynCorp’s technological secrets held on Masada but what can he do about the cyberwarfare that uses artificial intelligence to penetrate the station systems?
People who read all the previous novels in the SynCorp series know the style adopted by the authors with the story divided into subplots that follow different protagonists in various places in the solar system. The peculiarity of having Stacks Fischer’s point of view told in the first person also continues.
The open clash between SynCorp and Cassandra’s Soldiers of the Solar Revolution has reached the entire solar system, even in the most distant outposts. In that situation, it becomes more difficult than ever to understand who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Ambiguity and ethical and moral grayscale have been present since the beginning of this series but in neither faction do the leaders seem to care about the future of the common people. The characters’ individual positions and motivations are very different, and this leads some of them to reflect on the events in which they are involved.
“Masada’s Gate” contains various introspective moments especially related to the subplot that follows Kwazi Jabari. There are thoughts and reflections connected to his involvement in a revolution that increasingly shows behavior by its leaders that could be even worse than that of SynCorp’s oligarchs. The only possible choice seems to be the lesser of two evils.
In the situation faced by Kwazi Jabari – but he’s not the only one – we see the future evolutions of various means to manipulate people, also using what we now call fake news. Throughout the novels in the SynCorp series, David Bruns and Chris Pourteau offer some food for thought that often echoes current issues and propaganda, and the difficulties in finding reliable information are the ones developed in “Masada’s Gate”.
However, most of the novel follows the established style of action and clashes of various kinds developed at a fast pace. The protagonists find themselves in dangerous situations of various kinds built into the broader story. The middle book of a trilogy can ha problems with a lack of beginning and end, but the writers developed “Masada’s Gate” to have enough substance with events and character development to keep the stakes high.
“Masada’s Gate” leaves some narrative threads open for the grand finale of the SynCorp series. The Empire Earth trilogy continues to give me positive feelings and for this reason, I keep on recommending it. It’s a series consisting of six books but they’re rather short by today’s standards, so even readers who don’t like series that are several thousand pages long can like it.