Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
M.R. Forbes has begun an epic and promising saga with Foresight, the first novel in the Forgotten Space series, and in the second book, titled Formation, he picks up right where he left off. Captain Nicholas Shepherd and his crew have narrowly escaped total annihilation on Earth and have been flung halfway across the universe, where they come across a mysterious distress signal, which they can only hope is somehow connected with their arrival.
Table of contents
M.R. Forbes Launches the Galactic Voyage
The idea we might one day be overrun by technologically-superior and equally-aggressive aliens isn’t anything new, and was probably created as soon as the idea of “aliens” came to be. Many authors have used (and exploited, in some cases) this idea and tried to incorporate it within the framework of their own fiction. However, I think few modern writers managed to capture it as well as M.R. Forbes previously has in the first chapter his Forgotten Space series, and in the second one, titled Formation, he turns his attention to new horizons.
To be blunt about it, you do need to read Foresight, the first book in the series, in before jumping into this one. While, technically-speaking, the story does sort of work as a standalone, it picks up quite literally where the previous novel left us, consequently treating the universe and its characters as elements we’re already familiar with.
In any case, the story basically takes us to Captain Nicholas Shepherd and his crew after they very narrowly escape total annihilation back on Earth at the hands of their alien colonizers. Now, they’re travelling far across the galaxy in hopes of finding a place they can start anew, constantly looking over their shoulders in fear of their pursuers.
While travelling the vast and lonely reaches of the infinite cosmic void, they stumble upon a mysterious distress signal coming from some unknown planet. With no better courses of action available to them, the crew decide to investigate the signal, hoping it to be somehow related with their appearance in the sector.
Perhaps even more, they’re hoping to uncover what secrets their experimental starship, the Foresight, is still hiding from them, and what exactly makes it such a prized possession. However, the truths they’re about to learn on their space voyage trump anything they could have possibly anticipated, revealing a grand and magnificent scheme in the works, one which might just save a humanity about to draw its last breath.
The Parallel Universes of Formation
While the previous book in the series felt rather down-to-Earth (at least, as much as a science-fiction novel taking place in the future can be), detailing the struggles of the human resistance in the face of its alien invaders, this time around M.R. Forbes has seemingly decided to expand his horizons. He sets his sights on rather ambitious topics which, in my opinion, ought to be carefully introduced into any work of fiction.
As you might have divined from the title of this section, chief among those ambitious topics is the integration of parallel universes into the story. In the Forgotten Space series, their existence is essentially a fact, and the author spends quite a bit of time examining the topic and ensuring we understand what exactly it all means for our characters.
It is quite obvious that M.R. Forbes has dedicated quite a bit of his time to researching the topic from a scientific perspective, largely due to his ability to explain it in simple and easily-understood terms. Anyone who can reduce a complex subject to the layman’s level obviously has a great grasp on it, and he doesn’t let it go to waste, expanding on the various possibilities such a set-up opens for the inhabitants of this universe.
Quite ambitiously, the author even chances trying to introduce multiple layers of reality in Formation (that is to say, concrete parallel universes), and seamlessly manages to slip from one to the other while keeping their interconnected nature obvious, showing how actions in one can have repercussions in the others, a potential weapon down the line for our protagonist.
Where lesser authors would have stumbled and created a veritable storytelling mess, M.R. Forbes succeeds in creating a cohesive narrative which, against all odds, feels quite easy and simple to follow. Despite travelling across multiple universes, I never felt like I was lost or confused, a feat which I believe must be attributed to the quality of the author’s prose and the clarity with which he develops the story.
Humanity’s Final Hurrah
If we, the readers, had a spark of fate about humanity’s potential to overthrow its colonizers, then M.R. Forbes made sure it was gone and buried by the end of the first book, thrusting humanity’s few remnants into a completely hopeless situation. Now that our characters are travelling together on their spaceship, they start to feel like a more tightly-knit group than before, one with dynamics still in the process of development.
Though I wouldn’t exactly say the characters in Formation are rife with complexities and rich inner depths, they are nevertheless unique and well-developed enough to be instantly recognizable and even captivating in certain aspects. In other words, they feel a little more like regular people than epic science-fiction protagonists have a tendency to, but in the end, I felt like it made them more relatable, and the developments they undergo more poignant.
Of course, as much as we get to learn about them as people, what brings them joy and sorrow, it wouldn’t be a proper adventure without some tensions between the various members and their diverse personalities. Nor would these tensions be complete without the knowledge that some of them are harbouring secrets, the nature of which is left for us to decide.
Indeed, there is quite a bit of tension to be found in the relations between the crew members and the mysteries they might be harbouring, prompting us to think there might be a traitor in their midst. In turns, this helps to build an uneasy atmosphere where we’re constantly reminded about just how precarious of a situation Shepherd and his crew are in.
Though they were a bit less prominent and numerous than last time, there are still enough memorable action scenes which, on top of being a pleasure to read through, also play a role in advancing the plot more often than not. Adding to that the various twists M.R. Forbes has prepared for us along the way, we end up in a thrilling ride which, in my opinion, succeeds in expanding the Forgotten Space universe in the right direction.
|320||Independently published||Sept 1 2021||979-8463233073|
The Final Verdict
Formation by M.R. Forbes is an excellent sequel to the first entry in the Forgotten Space science-fiction series, taking some new directions by moving the characters far out into space and introducing wild new concepts with poignant twists which, ultimately, raise this saga to a new level.
If you’ve enjoyed the first book and are curious to see where adventure is headed for next, then I do recommend you check Formation out and continue your journey in the vast and unknown reaches of the cosmos.
M. R. Forbes
M.R. Forbes is an author primarily focusing on the science-fiction genre, having recently published a respectable amount of novels, including Rebellion, Chaos of the Covenant, Stars End and Foresight. He is also the author of numerous sci-fi series, including Forgotten Vengeance, War Eternal, Forgotten Colony and Forgotten Space.