Loving Escalation

A common pitfall among sci fi and fantasy authors is series creep, wherein each installment becomes longer and less eventful than the last. It’s a trap I strive to avoid.

As the rave reviews for Combat Frame XSeed: CY 40 Second Coming suggest, my XSeed series has surpassed even the Soul Cycle for raising the bar with each entry.

Nathan at the Castalia House Blog illustrates a few key ingredients that make the third XSeed book the best yet.

“Youv’e got to love escalation.”–Faust Hayden

As usual, the XSeed roller coaster begins from there, taking readers through a whirlwind of change as factions unite and break apart with each new developments. Here in CY 40 II, the revelations are earth-shaking, as the XSeed pilots and the SOC must deal with an alien threat even as they fight each other. The tantalizing skeins of a 60 million year-old mystery first spun in the original XSeed CY1 now take shape with the addition of the alien Secta, beings who travel from one doomed world to the next to record what they find. Earth, Mars, and the space colonies of the SOC are the latest worlds to be doomed. But before a defense can be prepared, Arthur Wake and Sullia Zend, the possible reincarnation of former genocidal world leader Sekaino Megami, must deal with each other, and Arthur prefers grenades to mere words .

As always with Niemeier’s books, CY 40 II rewards a close reading. Careful callbacks to XSeed CY1 appear, adding to the mysteries surrounding Sekaino Megami and those who would challenge her. Familiar faces appear in the most unlikely places. For those readers familiar with the mobile suit genre, resonances to the Gundam series which inspired XSeed are present, including 1990s fan favorite Gundam Wing. The threat of alien invasion offers a splash of Macross resonances as well, although thankfully no one sings here. And beneath the crackle of lasers and hiss of rockets, there is the mounting cost as the various factions of secret kings push humanity past its limits in preparation for the alien threat. Unavoidably in such attempts, there is breakage, as each of the XSeed pilots discover, including newcomer James Trent.

So what make the third visit to the XSeed story the charm?

Everything that I enjoyed from the previous two books is present in a clearer more concentrated form. Niemeier continues to grow more comfortable with the action and intrigues required in a martial thriller, enough to step on the gas and pick up the pace from the already brisk prequels. CY 40 II offers all the mecha action, intrigue, and surprises of the previous two books combined in half the space. Perhaps Wake’s return to SOC space might have used a little more exposition for clarification, but otherwise Niemeier deftly juggles the demands of heavy metal action, multiplying intrigue, and the constantly shifting locations required in a mecha thriller. 

A dry wit comes into sharper focus. A few excellent one-liners emerge from the chatter of pilots not used to radio discipline. Fortunately, these are not delivered with camp nor does the book stop to admire their cleverness. However, the occasional relief allows the tension needed in battles between metallic knights of space to ratchet even higher than without it.

The reason that so many skilled authors fall pray to series creep is a combination of insufficient planning and venal desire to milk an IP beyond its natural conclusion. I avoid such excess by meticulously outlining my series beforehand, giving each a definite beginning, middle, and end, and resolutely sticking to the plan. One of the most frequent comments about both of my series is that they start at a high level of quality and only improve with each book. This is how I do it, and I do it for you!

Don’t take my word for it. Read Combat Frame XSeed: CY 40 Second Coming now!

Combat Frame XSeed: CY 40 Second Coming

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