Rating: 4.75 stars
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Length: Novel

It’s been two years since Sasha Andreyev left Russia to join NASA astronaut training. Being an astronaut has been his dream for his entire life and he never thought it was even a remote possibility. Sasha is still in love with Sergey Puchkov, the President of Russia, and their relationship is still a secret and all they have are stolen moments across a great distance.

As Sasha is just completing his training, a Soviet satellite that has been long forgotten wakes up and starts to launch an attack that could be catastrophic. Immediate plans are made to send a crew into space and Sasha is on the team. Heading for the stars has been Sasha’s goal all along, but this mission came too fast and is too dangerous. Sasha and the crew have no idea what they will face when they reach their destination and forces are at work to undermine their every move. There is a biological weapon being activated, a weapon that should never have been created, and once again it will be Sasha’s mission to save the world. But his own life may be the ultimate sacrifice.

This book is intense for many reasons, but the ultimate reason is the writing that author Tal Bauer has infused into every scene. Stars picks up after Ascendent in The Executive Power series, which is a spin off from The Executive Office series. Jack and Ethan are strong side characters here and while this book definitely should be read after Ascendent, knowing the entire history certainly makes this book work so much for the better.

The love story between Sasha and Sergey is already solid and there is never a doubt that these two will be together as long as they both shall live. However, they both certainly thought they would have many years together and this mission threatens to compromise that in ways they could never comprehend. The love story between these two is unique to what is found most often in this genre as it has a spiritual vibe of a love story written in the stars. The love between Sasha and Sergey is a strong component of the story, but the mission is also the focus.

The setting of the book is in several places; with Jack and Ethan on a mission in remote locations, with Sergey in Russia, and with Sasha in Houston and then in space. There are a lot of details that are put into place and then pulled all together to create a story of biological warfare with a space setting. This book does not hold back on the horror and the gore as Sasha and his crew are up against a biological weapon that is equal, and at times surpasses, any blockbuster movie thriller. You would have to be a hard core sci-fi or gore lover to not find this book disturbing at times and horrific at others.

Kilaqqi is here again and he is an extraordinarily unique character and plays an integral and fascinating part to this story. The story also shows different sides to the same situation and what the government will do and what allies and enemies will do and what stranded space walkers will ultimately do to make it back to Earth. The end shows the high price Sasha and Sergey have paid by trying to uphold a higher standard in a world of the highest stakes wrapped in deception, intrigue, and cut throat politics. The story winds back to Jack and Ethan and has them mentioning Adam and Faisal, and that is the book I will now be waiting for.

Stars is a riveting tale of a quest for power and the madness that lurks at the heart of it. It’s also a tale of an endless love story of two souls destined to be together. And through it all is Sasha, the gay boy from a poor Russian town who was beaten down and rose to the save the world.

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