I actually had to listen to this audiobook twice since I couldn’t remember if I had listened to it or not. Turns out I had but the refresher was necessary since I had seemingly forgotten quite a bit since I last checked in with Currie’s Oddysey series. While enjoyed the first novel there is a sort of generic feel to this series that is difficult to same. This is a bit of a shame since Currie sets forth some fascinating mysteries in The Heart of Matter. In the first novel Currie introduces a ship taking its maiden voyaging using an untested, instantaneous FTL drive. Of course, on this maiden voyage the Odyssey encounters a seemingly human alien species that is facing a terribly world-destroying enemy. The Heart of Matter picks up where the previous novel ended as Captain Weston and his new allies are back on Earth recovering from their ordeal against the Drasin. Fleet brass isn’t necessarily pleased that Captain Westin has embroiled Earth in yet another conflict but is at least understanding the necessity to intervene in what would have amounted to genocide. The novel sees the Odyssey retasked on a diplomatic mission to establish a more formal relationship between Earth and the Priminae people; a task that involves getting the Priminae ground forced trained and ready to face the Drasin.
While the novel starts slow things begin to speed up as the Drasin once again enter the picture. As the Priminae abandon a colony world they are pursued into the Ranquil home system where the Odyssey and her crew are forced to intervene. Here the action splits in two as the Odyssey leaves its ground forces behind to pursue fleeing Drasin ships in the hopes of tracking them back to their home system. Meanwhile the drasin initiate a sneak attack on Ranquil leaving the combined forces of the Earth military and the relatively untrained Priminae ground forces left to defend Ranquil. During the latter two-thirds of the book Currie keeps the action hot and fast using the more deliberate cat and mouse game of the Odyssey’s stealthy foray into enemy territory to break up the more fast paced action of the Drasin invasion. Things ratched up to a climax in the books latter chapters and there are times as the action heats up that the switching back and forther between the Odyssey and Ranquil becomes difficult to follow.
Currie introduces some new wrinkles in The Heart of Matter, some of which I won’t spoil, but includes the mysterious entity known as Central. It isn’t quite clear if Central is an AI or something else entirely. Currie also has yet to address the jump sickness that results from the use of the Odyssey’s FTL drive. Currie does offer some further explanation of the drasin and the Odyssey’s journey provide important insight and another major mystery involving the world devouring aliens. By and large however The Heart of Matter felt like more of the same. While the action was intense and mysteries are certainly attention grabbing there feels to me a distinct lack of character that leaves the novel falling a little flat. None of the characters really stand out from one another and seem too often defined by what they do. In the end I’m left with very little insight into who the characters of The Heart of Matter are outside their role in the military. Narration from Benjamin Darcie is still excellent and the folks at Brilliance and Audible Frontiers have produced a well-polished product. Given my lack of attachment to the characters going forward in this series is going to be difficult and is entirely contingent on the fact that I hate leaving mysteries unsolved. While there are only two book left in the Odyssey One series I’m not sure when I’m going to get a chance to read them. If you’re a diehard fan of military science fiction Odyssey One is certainly a series worth looking at. However, for readers new the genre I’d definitely look elsewhere for an introduction to military science fiction and space opera.