In a departure for this very well-reviewed fantasist, Susan Shwartz has returned to her science fiction roots with a riveting novel of honor and its loss, love and its betrayal, and the exploration of what it means to be a true hero.
What Susan Shwartz has done is to take a well-loved tale and it in an unconventional setting. Second Chances is nothing less than an homage to Joseph Conrad-think of Lord Jim in space. Just as Conrad explored in great depth the perplexing, ambiguous problem of lost honor and guilt, expiation and heroism, Shwartz has created in her Jim a man haunted by guilt over an act of supposed cowardice and his lifelong efforts to somehow atone for that action-whether or not he merited the disgrace.
As Conrad's Jim was a tragic and ultimately noble hero, so too is Shwartz's Jim. A professional soldier whose time has passed, Jim is stationed about the corporate BioShip Irian Jaya security for a commercial venture critical to humanity's continued survival. The war that sundered whole worlds is over and now he's just another "tin soldier," a prop for the military to look good to war-weary civilians. But he's never stopped caring about those who scorn him and the ideals that he still clings to. That caring is tested, however, when he is thrust into a scandal not of his making. He chooses to carry the burden of guilt, no matter what. Because of his pride . . . . and maybe because that's the one thing he has left. Out of this madness will come the biggest battle for his honor and his soul.
And perhaps, a promise of a second chance.