The world is coming to a fiery, crashing end—or is it? Not even those investigating the ongoing crisis from James D. Prescott’s Extinction Code know for sure. The author keeps the reader guessing to the very end of this second book of the series.
Prescott’s writing style and language expression show vast improvement in this book, though he still uses “that is to say” here and there. He seems to have worked it into the narrative much better and with a bit more subtlety, resulting in less teeth-grinding annoyance as the story progresses. Overall, his actual skill in writing is much, much better this time around.
There’s only one plot, but Prescott has added an additional narrative thread to the two main characters from the first book. This was interesting at first, except Kayze Mahoro didn’t feel very well developed. She didn’t come across as tacked on, exactly, but she didn’t add much to actual story development—her character presented the point-of-view of the average person not directly involved in solving the riddle the alien artifacts presented. The events unfolding don’t seem to otherwise affect her much, though, and the new facts and perspectives she contributes could have easily been shown by either or both of the two other narrative characters.
An additional problem with Kay’s parts in the book is that her relationships with the other people in her orbit, friendly or not, feel distant and dispassionate. This is especially apparent when she’s with her fiancé, with whom she’s supposedly deeply in love, except there’s no sense of connection between them. They seem to be drifting along together on the same current but have no other real bond. This character is also present in the last book of the trilogy, so maybe more will become clear, but I think maybe the story would have been better served by absorbing Kay’s storyline into the two main characters’ narratives.
Beyond gripes about Kay’s characterization, the plot was well written and fairly airtight. The big revelations towards the end were interesting, and in a few cases, surprising. I can honestly say that there was one twist at the very end I did not see coming. As for the rest, I’ve seen elements of some of them in other stories—the main storyline of the Mass Effect CRPG franchise comes to mind, but Prescott’s take on them still piqued my interest.
The world-building was well done, if rather mundane, as the narratives of two characters take place in the familiar world. The bulk of the third point of view character’s plot thread takes place in some exceptionally old ruins, which are described quite well, and the musings of the group exploring them was insightful.
In all, this was a well-written story, if still a bit rough around the edges. Though he still needs some work on technique, Prescott is quite talented as a storyteller. I’m looking forward to the third and last book of this series.
Title: Extinction Countdown
Author: James D. Prescott