This review will contain spoilers!
In many sentences:
Clearly I must have enjoyed Beyond the Blue Event Horizon considering I read it in about four days. It's interesting, though, because for the first couple days it really didn't feel like I was enjoying it all that much. I was moving through it, interesting things were happening, but it didn't capture me quite the same way as the first book. I think, part of that, is similar to what my experience with Fall of Hyperion was compared to the first. In Gateway, it jumped back and forth between the present of Robin's therapy sessions with Sigfrid, and the past on Gateway. This was done masterfully, and created a strong tension and mystery throughout the book. This same tension simply didn't exist in the sequel. That isn't to say it was bad, or that the mysteries that did exist weren't well presented, just that it didn't hold the same weight as the first book.
Speaking of the structure, this is another area where the original was superior. In Gateway, each chapter had something before it that presented facts about the world via Gateway trip logs, therapy notes, and so on. This book, however, was just straightforward chapters with nothing as creative as the introductions in the last book. It did do a nice job of transitioning from the first person sections focusing on Robin and the third person sections following the crews in space, but that wasn't enough to make up for what was so good about the first book.
Were these transitions from first to third person superior to those I complained about in Fall of Hyperion? Not really, but they simply didn't bother me as much. Perhaps because of the time I took between reading the first and second book in this series? Not sure, but for whatever reason, I accepted it easier this time.
The hardest thing for me to accept, however, was Robin himself. He simply seemed far different from the character he was in the first book. Some of this could, of course, be explained by the personal growth he experienced in that book, and his ability to overcome the guilt that was destroying him at the time. Still, the jump from Robin at the end of Gateway to Robin in Beyond was extremely difficult to come to terms with at first. It didn't bother me after awhile, but I never could quite accept that they were the same character. Maybe this was intentional, but I disliked it.
The ending, and the revelation that there is actually a third race, even more advanced and intelligent that the Hechee, was extremely cool. It took me from minor interest in reading the third book, to a burning desire to put it next on the list. I also really enjoyed the whole struggle that existed due to the delay in communications between the party that was on the Food Factory, and the people on Earth who wanted to tell them what to do. This was particularly fascinating considering how much we take instant communication for granted these days. I would appreciate a book that took this struggle and explored it more deeply, making it the sole cause for conflict.
Ultimately this isn't a great book. It's a good book, with plenty of interesting ideas that are presented well. The writing is good, but it lacks the creativity and depth of the first book, just as Fall of Hyperion lacked the subtlety and creativity of Hyperion. Nevertheless, it was still enjoyable, and has done its job of moving the series forward by answering many questions from the first book, while presenting enough new ones to make the reader excited to pick up the next volume. It is, though, definitely only for the more hardcore science fiction fans out there.
"At least, Captain thought grayly to himself, when They do come back to reoccupy this universe that They are reshaping to suit Their whims, They'll have to get through those others before They get to us."Frederik Pohl the Last Line of in Beyond the Blue Event Horizon