The Sundering - Walter Jon Williams
OK, so I couldn't wait for part 2 after all... the second book in the Dread Empire's Fall trilogy benefited greatly from the different set of expectations I brought in this time, and I now suspect I was overly harsh on the first one. This isn't supposed to be a dark and disturbing piece of space-nastiness, this is a jolly sci-fi equivalent of cowboys & injuns with super space battles and Our Hero defying his stuffy commanders to win decisive victories over the sneaky aliens... and frankly, there's nothing wrong with that at all.
This is what I imagine science fiction to have been like in the early days, when small boys spent their sixpences on magazines with titles like Astounding Space Stories!, daring space captains battled Martians and everything was a lot of fun. Of course, there has been an awful lot of development in SF since then, but Williams has managed to take the spirit of those early stories, stripped out the misogyny and most of the overt cheesiness and added some well-placed humour for a very entertaining read.
Martinez continues to distinguish himself in the war on the Naxids, while Sula has joined La Resistance for when the invaders take the capital city; there is also a predictable but still interesting twist on their whole star-crossed lovers story. With just two main characters and a very simple background, this probably doesn't quite qualify as Space Opera; it deserves a name more like "Space Adventure!" (with the exclamation mark) - no complications, no bleak dystopian treatises on the Human Condition, just some spaceships, some aliens and a whole lot of fun.
And yes, I'll be buying Part 3 as soon as my next paycheck comes in.