Time has run out for super soldier Zed Anatolius. The alien poison used to turn him into an ultimate warrior has left him unpredictable and dangerous to everyone around him. Day by day he slips further into the remains of his degrading mind, further from reality, and further from Felix, the man he loves. Felix knows that Zed is getting worse, but he is torn between wanting to fight for their future and living for the few moments they may have left.
As Zed spirals deeper into madness, the tight knit crew of the Chaos fight to protect Zed from himself, while fleeing from the increasingly determined Agrius cartel. With enemies dogging their every move, Felix and his friends must roll the dice on an experimental treatment to save Zed. But even if they save his life, it may be too late for his mind.
Wow what a gut puncher Lonely Shore was. More than once I had to wipe away a tear or two, so readers, be ready for an emotional roller-coaster. I should start by saying this book is a direct sequel to Chaos Station and you really have to read that book before you start Lonely Shore as the plot carries over in multiple ways.
Lonely Shore is more about Felix and Zed’s emotional journey than being a huge sci-fi action piece, but what a journey! The horrific aspects of Zed’s descent into madness are shown with a stark honesty that really cut to the core of me. As he begins to loose time, memories, and even his own sense of self, his desperation comes through as agonizingly real to the reader. There is a scene where Zed temporarily forgets Felix’s name and Zed’s absolute panic is truly visceral. I would give a heads up to anyone who has a trigger regarding Alzheimer’s because while Zed’s disease moves rapidly, many of his experiences echo aspects of that disease, or at least they did for me. Zed tries to keep his worsening episodes a secret from the rest of the crew and some of the best scenes show how everyone struggles to deal with his poorly constructed lies and the reality of the situation. Felix is just as tough as Zed, but his emotions are less muted and more volatile and as a result they often spill out as a jumbled mix that seems powerful and brutally painful. The authors have done a masterful job of capturing the depth of human grief and the powerless we feel when confronted by that over which we have no control.
On a slightly less angst-laden note, I loved the return of the Chaos crew. Their individual personalities are wonderfully rendered. There is a true sense of family amongst the members of the Chaos and the authors have created a space where readers are welcomed into the family rather than left feeling isolated or unconnected. These characters further the plot without ever stealing the scene from Felix and Zed. It was especially nice to learn more about Qek, the alien pilot and ultimately she and her people play an important role in the fight to save Zander. Additionally, the plot to Lonely Shore moves quickly as the strong undercurrent of tension pushes the narrative forward without much lag.
My only real grumble concerns the Agrius cartel. This particular bunch of nasty thugs carried over from the first novel and for much of Lonely Shore, they are trying to stop the Chaos at every turn. But then they went from being a menace to little more than annoyance in just a few pages. It was all together anticlimactic and felt too easy to me. I would preferred to see this part of the plot given a meatier conclusion. My other minor annoyance is the same here as it was in Chaos Station. Both Felix and Zed have multiple names and these are used rather willy-nilly and it’s maddening to see Felix referred to as Flick in one sentence only to have someone else call him Fixer in the next. It’s a hardly a major issue, but its just one of those things that occasionally becomes distracting.
Having enjoyed Chaos Station, I assumed its sequel would be equally interesting. I never expected Lonely Shore to be so emotionally wrenching or to become so genuinely attached to the characters. This is really an amazing novel and I would encourage even those who normally don’t enjoy science fiction to give it a try. Felix and Zed make a fantastic couple and following their adventures is a true pleasure!