Lander by J. Scott Coatsworth

Lander by J. Scott Coatsworth

Lander is the second in The Oberon Cycle and a middle book, though one with its own issues and resolutions. It starts right after Skythane, making me wish I’d binge read the two though I rarely do that.

There’s a large cast, some introduced in Skythane and others new. Most I could remember based on the introduction or re-introduction context. I only noticed one I didn’t know when Xander clearly did, and her backstory wasn’t critical to this tale for all she played an important role.

While most books hold to a few main characters, and often restrict the POV even further, Lander uses a broad range of voices. This allows the reader to see the characters through many viewpoints. You get to know the characters much better this way because they interact with people differently.

The mentions of Xander’s ex in Skythane are ambiguous at best. They are seen through Xander’s perspective, and only after abandonment taints those memories. I didn’t realize this until Alix reappears and we get to know him from his own POV. He’s much more complex than I imagined, with a surprise or two up his sleeve, and he truly cares for Xander. This last is a big issue because what’s good for Xander isn’t always what Alix wants. There were hints of a better solution that hasn’t come to be yet, but Alix grows on me as much as others in the story.

Lander starts in a new POV, but one we know of and which complicates the situation right off. I thought Jessa, Jameson’s fiancée whom he hasn’t broken up with yet, would just be a plot point to balance Alix at first. But like the other characters, Jessa develops into a full person with strengths and weaknesses, who I came to enjoy spending time with.

It’s a sign of the character complexity that I worried at points when a rescue came at what might be considered a little too perfect moment. It was hard to know for sure if a character had been compromised. Speaking of characterization, I enjoyed how each character’s history, good or bad, offered details that helped them in their current life, though not always in favor of others.

The book has a good number of simultaneous plot threads. Some are primary, but you only figure that out when they resolve at the end (yes, this book has its own resolutions), while others carry the series forward. Still, even the latter type often adds layers to the main plots, especially when the POV moves rapidly from one group to another, ramping the tension as events collide.

I found it interesting how the book both has religion as a consistent element (two different ones at least) but none of the main characters are particularly religious. At the same time, many turn to faith when in danger, and the lines between blind faith and misunderstood truth blur during the story. Jessa also provides a broader perspective on Jameson’s adopted home and reveals his parents to be the conservatives rather than the entire planet.

The book has closed door, gay, intimate scenes along with a good bit of kissing, but unlike the first book, relationships are a primary, driving force. I found the actual description was inconsistent in heat level between the initial scenes and the later ones, but not so much that it changed the closed door standing. While this part focuses on romantic relationships, though, the many ways people can care for each other, along with some of the possibilities for dysfunctional or harmful relationships, play a role in this book. I think the blurb gave away one conflict too early, but for the most part I liked how Xander and Jameson’s relationship developed through rocky times and how they each worked through the problem differently.

I like the more well-rounded presentation of homosexuality in lander society over what we saw in Skythane. There is bias for sure, but it’s less a generic everyone and more specific to certain people. I don’t know whether this is a sign of the world maturing in the author’s mind or getting a broader view of the world through the wider POV. It’s one advantage to spreading the viewpoints out across more characters.

Seeing the strategies and hard decisions that bring about success helped increased my engagement with the events, especially as Xander and Jameson mature into their new responsibilities. Nothing comes easy or without cost, but Xander’s commanding presence, something odd in a former lone wolf as much as it suits him, both invigorates and secures the willing commitment of their people.

The setup for the next book is also intriguing, opening many opportunities for disaster to come. We learn more about the ancient peoples who came before and their technological prowess, which I find fascinating.

Lander offers a satisfying read all on its own while increasing the characters I care about and pulling me toward the next book in the series. It maintains the complex world building I enjoyed in Skythane and reveals even more layers. The characters are similarly designed with hidden depths that can help explain their actions and make everything worse for the main characters. I look forward to reading the third book to see how everyone responds to this new, even greater, threat.

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