Title: The Ocean Beyond
Author: Pete A O’Donnell
Genre: Science Fiction / Young Adult
The Ocean Beyond is the second book of the In The Giant’s Shadow series. The first book, The Stars Beyond the Mesa, ended on a cliffhanger as a group of young heroes found themselves pulled through a wormhole-like phenomenon and onto a mysterious moon orbiting a distant planet. Now they are faced with an insurmountable challenge: staying alive in a complex, cut-throat society of multiple alien races, shifting allegiances, brutal battles, and merciless ruling entities who bear a striking resemblance to the monster they faced back on Earth. And there’s the small matter of finding out what happened to one of their parents and the fate of their home planet.
Fortunately, if anyone was able to pull all that off, it’s this group of remarkable youth. As in the first installment, the characterizations of the kids continue to form the structure of the story. Each has their own priorities and agendas, and their actions are what push the plot along. As well-defined are the other-than-human characters the reader meets, which are unlike others in the sci-fi genre, which is, in itself, no small feat. Of particular note are the Grannusians, a truly original take on a water-based creature.
In this book the stakes are higher than ever before. Entire planets and races are at risk, and imperial dynastic interests are involved. There are brutal fights and official executions. The plot starts slowly, as the kids and the reader are both faced with a steep learning curve on where they find themselves and what’s going on there. But events suddenly pick up speed, and all are pulled along at a galloping pace right up until the last page, and then on through the epilogue.
This second book is different enough in plot, setting, and theme that it would have made sense for it to serve as the beginning of the series, with the prior one more of a prequel, or retold in segments through flashbacks. Readers may be more drawn to this story than the one contained in Stars Beyond the Mesa. On the other hand, there is a lot of background in the first book that provides a context for the characters, as the reader is clearly expected to know them a little already in order to understand their motives.
The suspension of disbelief needed while reading science fiction may be stretched for some, as these kids seem to not get rattled, even when thrust in mind-bending and life-threatening situations. Shock, fear, anxiety don’t appear to be more than a passing problem. Perhaps this can be seen as a common mechanism that helps people through traumatic situations, but the kids sometimes react more like well-trained soldiers than civilians. Kids as tough as these are not uncommon in books of this genre, though, so for most readers, it will not be a barrier.
With much political intrigue, The Ocean Beyond will appeal to readers who enjoy society-level plots and intercultural political thrillers. As with the previous book, it will appeal to horror and monster story fans, young adult readers, as well as a general science fiction audience.
In all, this story is a reminder that humans are just one species in a vast number of other ones. And it asks the question: Just how much do the needs of one person stack up against the forces of the Universe?
This Editorial Review was written by the Book Review Directory staff. To receive a similarly honest, professional review for one of your own books, click here.