Megan O’Keefe’s motto for the third and final book of her Protectorate series, Catalyst Gate, seems to be “go big or go home”. She goes big and she delivers. O’Keefe’s contained and effective debut Velocity Weapon exploded outwards into a much larger and more complex universe in Chaos Vector but left plenty of questions and allegiances hanging. Catalyst Gate does its best to answer those questions (after posing some new ones), unmask various traitors or verify the goodness of some allies, and all within a page-turning, do-or-die plot. Being the final book in a trilogy this review may contain spoilers for the first two volumes. If you love space opera and don’t want to be spoiled, go back and read those first.
Catalyst Gate starts in the aftermath of Chaos Vector. Once again, there is no prelude or recap, readers are thrown into the action. And that action is once again split across three main characters. Sanda Greeve and her team of misfits aboard the intelligent space ship The Light pick up Nazca spy Tomas who has big secrets to reveal but can possibly help them in their fight against the alien Rainier; her brother Biran is trying to weed out Rainier clones from his ranks while also leading a critical mission but finds that Rainier’s conspiracy goes deeper than he imagined possible; and Jules is trying to make amends for launching a biological weapon that has brought an entire planet to its knees. The three stories will wind around each other, dropping both life-changing and galaxy-changing revelations along the way to resolution.
There is a lot going on here but O’Keefe keeps a handle on it all, using her three-focus structure to set up a bunch of cliffhangers for her characters. The action is once again well handled but also balanced against great character work. Sanda herself is the same kick-arse, punch first ask questions later, risk taking hero she has ever been but increasingly desperate as time and options run out. Her team may have felt like they originally came out of science fiction found-family casting in Chaos Vector (the doctor, the tech-head, the ex-soldier, the spy with a heart of gold) but all emerge further from any thought of typecasting.
Catalyst Gate is as good an end to this trilogy as fans could hope for. O’Keefe answers more questions about her universe and resolves the main mysteries but leaves plenty of uncertainty for the future. Whether or not O’Keefe ever returns to the universe of The Protectorate, it is just exciting to wonder what she might deliver next.