The story in The Shadow Ship picks up some years after the events of the the first novel in the series, Convergent Space. At the end of the first story, there was a terrible explosion that has since become known as the Second Great Wave. This event has laid waste to numerous inhabited planets and systems that have either been completely obliterated or barely habitable. It has also caused a shift in powers in the galaxy. But looming over everything is a giant ship that is roaming the galaxy and destroying planets that belong to a dominant power in the galaxy known as the Renaissance.
Nyder is traveling with Della who is treating some of her more well off passengers to a tour of worlds that have been devastated by the Second Great Wave. This morbid junket seems to be quite entertaining to Della and her guests, but not so much to Nyder, who is searching for his father, rumored to be dead.
Turiss, the commander of a Renaissance ship seems willing to do whatever it takes to track down the devastating Shadow Ship. No one is aware of why the ship has chosen to travel between star systems and destroy Renaissance planets, but Turiss suspects that it has something to do with the Renaissance's arch enemies, the Phlegar.
Aiding Nyder in his search for his father is his wise cracking companion, Disparity. Companions are computers that are with humans from the time they are born and serve to advise and protect their human counterparts. Also along are Nax, a representative of Tihn Frolin, the now leader of the Phlegar.
Through many twists and turns, we learn the origin of the Shadow Ship and why it is doing what it is doing. Nyder does find his father, Chet, and we learn the fate of Chet's Companion, Nonconformity.
But even with the mystery of the Shadow Ship solved, there is still a terrible war looming on the horizon and one person in the galaxy finds that he has the power to end it before it begins. It is up to this individual to weigh the cost of ending the war.
Cleary has once again penned a fine story. His characters come come to life and as a reader, I found that I had an emotional connection with many of them, both liking and disliking some. I found that I started out on the dislike side of the ledger with one character in particular, but when he had a chance to explain himself near the end of the book, I felt more sympathy with him.
One aspect that stood out for me was his descriptions of the devastated planets. With his words, Cleary painted mental pictures that were very vivid in my mind.
I don't know how many more novels that the author is planning for the series, but I was expecting the usual transitional piece that many times takes place in trilogies, but that is not the case here. The Shadow Ship stands very well on its own, independent from the first novel in the series. However, if you plan to give this one a try, take a look at Convergent Space first because there is some background there that is continued in this story.
Once again, The Shadow Ship begs for a sequel and I don't think that the author is ready to make an end to this saga. So stay tuned.
I recommend The Shadow Ship with enthusiasm and without reservation.
Well, there it is...