Nomad by William Alexander

book_nut's review

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Really quite good. Didn't even know it was a sequel.

yapha's review

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Gabe (Earth's ambassador to the Universe) and the Kaen have resolved their differences from the first book, but now they have an even bigger problem. The Outlast are coming and they want to kill them all. Gabe has problems of his own, too. His father was deported back to Mexico and Gabe is thousands of miles away trying to save the Earth. Only his sister Lupe knows where he is, so his mother must be going out of her mind with worry. Just as Gabe and the Kaen are forming an uneasy alliance, Earth's former ambassador, Nadia Kollontai, returns. She had disappeared 40 years before, though not that much time has passed for her. She has some ideas about possible ways to stop the Outlast, but the three ambassadors must convince the leaders of the Kaen to trust their plan. This thrilling science fiction adventure contains important statements on immigration, as well as a fun interpretation of Mayan history. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up, but read [b:Ambassador|17571252|Ambassador|William Alexander||24510881] first.

the_fabric_of_words's review

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We discovered William Alexander's fantasy middle grade work, his medieval faire-setting A Festival of Ghosts and A Properly Unhaunted Place, a few years ago and read and reviewed them for my annual December, Review-a-Day Countdown to the Holiday.

I'd been meaning to read more of his middle grade books (there are a bunch!) and came across this sci-fi duology. I passed them along to my teen son, who also loved them.

They really do read like one book that got broken into two for middle-grade reader expectations of length. The first is 222 pages, and clearly ends unresolved. In fact, by the end, it feels like it's just getting started. While the second book is a bit longer, 264 pages, and wraps up everything started in book one. I'd recommend reading one right after the other with no pause between them.

Nomad takes up where Ambassador leaves off, although it begins in the point of view of the Ambassador immediately before Gabe -- Nadia Kollontai. Her aunt and uncle are Jewish, but living in the USSR in 1974 and working on the super-secret moon base. She and the Envoy steal aboard the last N-1 rocket fired by the USSR to the moon and Zvezda Base to meet a rogue pilot and fly in the Machinae lanes.

The Outlast are in our arm of the galaxy and using the Machinae lanes to conquer world after world.

The Machinae are mentioned, briefly, in the first book as being the only species that can travel the vast expanses of the universe quickly, going from point to point. But they won't open their "lanes" to any species other than the Outlast, which has lately been using them to achieve Universe-wide domination and extermination of all life that isn't theirs.

Nadia leaves the base with the pilot, which explains how the poor purple Envoy got to the moon base in the first book, and Gabe's story picks up again.

SPOILER ALERT: This review will explain where the first book ended, so if you don't want to know how Ambassador ends, skip this part.

When we last left Gabe, he's figured out who's trying to kill him -- the Kaen -- and why -- because they don't want it known they're pirating our water from the asteroid belt, and because it looked like, in Gabe's ignorance of inter-galactic affairs, that he was conspiring with the Outlast, at least initially.

He's struck a bargain with the Kaen to stop trying to kill him, if they'll come get him on the moon base and take him back to Earth. Then they can continue outrunning the Outlast, which is headed in Earth's direction.

Ambassador Kaen (and this part's a bit confusing -- the Kaen are a "tribe" of nomad species, a conglomeration of many kinds, who have one unifying language, but that's about it, but Ambassador Kaen is a girl -- a human girl -- because in the Kaen's travels they've picked up people before, namely the Olmec, and incorporated them into their tribe) comes to pick up Gabe from Zvezda moon base.

He's shocked to learn she's human, but it turns out the Kaen (as a nomad tribe) are descendants of early Olmecs and Aztecs. He and Kaen confront the four Kaen captains who ordered Gabe's assassination. They convince them, together with Nadia, whose ventures into the Machinae lanes have left her near-blind but completely un-aged, to explore how the Outlast are using the Machinae lanes. Their only hope against the Outlast is to band together to figure out how to fly the Machinae lanes and convince the Machinae to shut down the lanes, if they want to save Earth and the Kaen fleet from the advancing Outlast.

At first, Gabe doesn't understand the Omegan, the Outlast Ambassador, is part of a hive-mind of sorts, where if one knows a thing, they all know a thing, and therefore all the Omegan knows or experiences, the rest of the Outlast know. Gabe endangers other species, just by drawing the attention of Omegan. But in the process of speaking to Omegan, Gabe learns somehow the Outlast's linked consciousness allows them to travel the lanes, because the Machinae recognize it.

Unfortunately, the Outlast are just as smart as Gabe and Kaen and even more determined to maintain their domination of the lanes and stop the humans.

The Kaen fulfill their agreement and return Gabe to Earth, but as he tries to rescue his father in Mexico, he gets caught trying to enter the US without any documentation and he ends up in an ICE detention facility as well.

After fighting his way out, he's got a solution in mind for his parents' immigration predicament -- one the Envoy is more than capable of executing, at Gabe's order.

Nadia and her rogue pilot give the lanes one more shot, and when the lanes come down, the Outlast go down -- and out of this universe -- with them.

This was a satisfying conclusion to the two-book series!

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francescaalexis's review

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A perfectly competent and enjoyable sequel to the awesome Ambassador. This book wasn't able to surprise me like the first one did, but William Alexander's continued focus on communication and nonviolent problem solving helps create a science fiction 'verse that is fascinating and unique.