With the second Central Corps novel, Remnants of Trust, Elizabeth Bonestell makes a strong case for adding her name to the list of military science fiction authors we can rely on to deliver one fascinating adventure after another—and this time, we didn’t even need to wait a year between books. In March’s The Cold Between, we met Commander Elena Shaw of the Central Corps ship Galileo, who was caught in the middle of a murder mystery that leads to political corruption at the highest levels of the Corps.
We met many interesting characters along the way: Trey, outlaw captain and accused murderer; Greg Foster, captain of the Galileo, who’s in love with Shaw but hiding it; Shaw herself, a talented engineer who falls hard for the man outside her own world (her status as an engineer rather than a commanding officer gave the action sequences that are a hallmark of the genre a slightly different twist).
We explored a fascinating future universe patrolled by PSI vessels—generational ships manned, by military crews and their families. The PSI ships patrol the same areas of space as the Central Corps, making them uneasy allies. Through Shaw’s romance with Trey, a former PSI officer, we see how differently the two sides approach problem-solving, the Corps’ military mindset clashing with the PSI’s more nuanced view.
The Cold Between left Shaw and Foster on uncertain terms with their respective commanders and caught between trying to do their jobs and wondering if following orders is the right thing.
Unfortunately, Trey doesn’t appear in the second book, but we do meet an equally fascinating character from the PSI side of the power struggle: Captain Shiang Guanyin of the Orinmula, 29 years old, pregnant with her sixth child, and safeguarding a ship that is home to more than 800 people. It’s Guanyin who saves the surviving crew of a Central Corp ship from a surprise attack that kicks off Remnants of Trust with a bang. The Exeter, carrying a political prisoner hiding state secrets, is crippled by raiders who may or may not be working with well-placed allies in the government the Corps serves, nearly 100 of its crew slaughtered. Shaw and Greg, back together on the Galileo, are tasked with getting to the bottom of the mystery—which is looking less and less like a simple attack and more and more like sabotage—but they’ll need to figure out who is behind additional “accidents” occurring onboard both the Galileo and the Orinmula if they hope to prevent the sector from slipping into war.
That Guanyin is a pregnant mother is a delightful change from many women in military sci-fi, who are rarely allowed such overt displays of femininity. She views the Corps with distrust, as she should, but forges a bond of understanding with Celik, Exeter‘s captain, who is mourning his lost ship and crew. The scenes between the two of them, each seeking to help the other cope with the crisis, are among the most poignant in the book.
Remnants of Trust is a fitting title; the Corps officers face questions about how much to trust their command and how much they can rely on one another: the investigation soon reveals that one of Exeter‘s crew was a traitor; meanwhile, Foster’s unrequited love for Shaw continues to cause headaches for them both. Shaw also has complicated feelings toward the survivors of the Exeter, the ship where she first served.
This second novel has a conclusion, in that the mystery of the raiders and of Exeter‘s long-ago rescue mission on a hostile planet are solved. But the ending also leaves open a number of questions and upends at least one character’s life. I hope the next book is coming soon. I need answers…and another adventure.