*contains spoilers for the first book*
In the first sequel to Roma, Underground Bianca is back in America under her former employer, the secret organization Rendition, in want of investigating a pharmaceutical company. Playing part in the novel is research into insect genetics that might have an effect on cancer treatment, and Bianca’s friends Farrugia and Gennaro join her as well in the initial setting of Boston. The author dedicates the first successor to Ellen Marqusee, Daniel Ruan, and Keith Saxon, at the end acknowledging Winter Goose publishers Jordan Adams and James Logan, not to mention fellow writers at the publisher and a newspaper editor who helped with advertising.
The story opens with Bianca / Alabaster Black in Boston amidst cold weather, in the city to investigate a pharmaceutical company while working for Rendition, with lawyers building a case against the company. Upholding the narrative’s moniker, wasps somewhat play a role, with occasional factoids on genetics such as wasps and ants sharing egg gender characteristics, whereas those unfertilized become males and those fertilized become females. Returning characters to the sequel include Isidore Farrugia, who takes a plane to Boston, alongside occasional discussion on religion, with some characters such as Clemente formerly Catholic.
There are occasional historical notes as well relating, for instance, to the history of slavery in the Roman Empire, whereas most servants consisted of captured soldiers from enemy militaries, with convict slaves being the primary recipient of brands. Conspiracy and deaths abound in the book’s latter portion, accounting for an engaging narrative, although there are occasional confusing portions with relation, for instance, to the author using pronouns near the beginning of certain chapters without having first referenced those to whom he refers. Even so, those that enjoyed its predecessor will most likely enjoy the first sequel.
Gabriel Valjan lives in New England, but has traveled extensively, receiving his undergraduate education in California and completing graduate school in England. Ronan Bennett short-listed him for the 2010 Fish Short Story Prize for his Boston noir, Back in the Day. His short stories and poetry have appeared in literary journals and online magazines.