From the four TNE Novels this is by far the most complex. It takes up where the second Paul Burnette Novel (To dream of chaos) ends and shows the future fate of the Hornet and her crew. The characters get a lot of further development and some interesting twists, Traveller fans will "meet" a lot of well known NPCs and see some interesting developments within the Reformation Coalation.
The book has some fast paced and interesting space and ground action that "feels right" to a Traveller fan yet can be easily read and understood by those who are not knee-deep into the Traveller universe or rules set. The same is true for the planets visited - the author gives enough information for the non-TNE fan to make the worlds come alive but at the same time manages to add new odds and ends for long time fans.
The novels pacing is good, the bad guys are diverse ranging from the stupid megalomaniac to the smart but honorable enemy. While it is always clear who are the good guys, the bad guys are not pure stereotypes. With some scenes Mr. Carson even manages to instill the same feelings that Jerry Pournelle manages in "King of Sparta" when the King is killed or in WarWorld when Piet van Reenan fights the Sauron Cyborg in "The Kings that die for the people", really making you feel for, cheer for the Coalation.
This version of "The Backward Mask" has nothing in common with the Burnette manuscript also offered here. Having read both I consider this a good thing since the Burnette version is a major change in pace and events from the original two novels, taking the "Backward" part literally as the "rearward/Oriflamme Area of Operations" and dealing heavily with Virus.
[5 of 5 Stars!]