Eric Michael Craig is at it again with Dust of the Deep, book two in his Wings of Earth series. Fans of the author will know exactly what I mean by “at it again,” as his writing style tends to hook readers into wild adventures. Notably, he employs a “take no prisoners” pacing that launches you directly into the action.
In my previous review of Echoes of Starlight (book one), I applauded Craig’s departure from large ensemble casts. We’re introduced to Ethan Walker, captain of the Olympus Dawn, who endures a terrible, no good, very bad day. After some heroic antics on a hostile planet, the stage was set for book two.
Dust of the Deep opens after the brief calm of Echoes, where a dark and mysterious vessel named Blackwing attacks a neutral ship. In the next scene, we see Ethan assembling a new crew for the restored Olympus Dawn, fresh off some funding from the equally mysterious Dr. Caldwell. A new high-paying job sees his fortunes turning around, which, of course, is entirely short-lived. Chaos ensues before he reaches the destination, which is further exacerbated by an aggressive gang of space pirates.
Once again, the proverbial stink hits the fan. What could have been an easy rehash for a less experienced author is quickly nullified by Ethan’s character arc. He’s still a fault-prone wreck, mind you, but he has grown enough through the first book to avoid some mistakes before he makes them. That, in a nutshell, is the ongoing appeal of the series.
It’s often said that a star is only as good as their supporting cast. Ethan is no different, as several new faces shine brightly. Standouts include Ammo, a crafty vixen who lacks modesty and wields charm like a weapon. And then there’s Quintan, a literal giant who loves to cook and dress the part. Their quirky personas inject a steady stream of levity into a near-constant tension. Quintan’s intro alone is enough to to draw some hearty chuckles.
Dust of the Deep is an easy recommendation to fans of gritty space adventures. As with Craig’s other works, the science is sound, the pace is snappy, and the humor is sharp. Grab book one, if you haven’t already, and dive head-first into the Wings of Earth.