"I entered a temple once...to experience what was meant by this slippery word 'holy'...looking into Ianto's eyes, it all changed. I finally understood. And I thought, ah, it is God who needs to see us and not the other way around."
3.5 stars, rounded to 4 stars.
Firewall: Samu'el (F:S) is the second book in this series and a direct continuation. This addition to the series continues to be a plot-driven work of science fiction that is paced better than its predecessor. While book one took time in establishing characters, relationships ("good" vs "bad") and in crafting the world, F:S is able to focus on the plot's development. While we get glimpses of The Game in the predecessor, F:S tends to focus mostly on the virtual reality simulation. (I would say 60% takes place in The Game while 40% is in the actual reality.)
The story is told through several character POVs, focusing mostly on Sam, Ianto, Jean, Cyntia and Hobert. There are a few other characters as well, though they don't get as much page time as these characters. With these character perspectives, the story also changes between The Game and reality with each chapter. While I am NOT a fan of POV changes over more than two characters, I don't feel that it distracts from the storytelling. Mostly because these characters have prominent roles in the overall plot, and their perspectives are thus important in understanding the story.
F:S also has a nice M/M twist as we FINALLY see Ianto and Sam interacting more than just a few scenes. There is romance between these two characters, and that "bond" is a critical element in the overall plot. However, it is important to make the distinction that this story is NOT M/M romance-driven; in fact, I wouldn't even label this as a M/M romance per se; more of a science fiction novel with M/M elements.
Unfortunately, the characters still felt a little flat for my liking. Sam and Hobert are probably the only characters that I felt were less two dimensional. Ianto is more likeable in this installation, if only because his actions are more predictable; or in other words, he acts "more" human (which is ironic, when you read this book). The only other major issue I had with this novel is the proofreading errors - mostly misspellings that got distracting at times (even misspelling of character names at times). While this wouldn't be a reason to NOT read F:S, I felt that there was definitely some polishing that could be done.
My overall verdict: F:S is a very interesting science fiction novel with a riveting plot. Anyone who is a fan of the SF genre who doesn't mind the lack of romance-driven M/M plot should give this series a go (starting with book one). If you enjoyed the first book, or was left intrigued with the plot, the second book only gets better.