In Sheridan’s sci-fi debut, the first of a planned trilogy, humanity’s military forces fight back against an alien species, but there may be a bigger threat in play.
In 2028, Capt. Ryan Flannery and his team of Green Berets are on the planet Ou’Therras to take out the alien Alcyonis’ communication-array tower. Earth is still recovering from the Alcyonis’ attack, and the humans hope they’ll be prepared if the lizardlike beings launch a second strike. Soon after the initial assault, another alien species, the humanoid Fornax, contacted Earth and suggested that the Alcyoni were a mutual enemy. But the Fornax turn out to be stingy with intel, and their ambassador, Zido Su’Voon, maintains that humans should primarily be able to defend themselves. At the same time, Zane Sy’Rax, ex–prime general of the Fornax Imperial Army, is spearheading a secret project involving hundreds of human captives. Higher-ups terminate the operation, but Sy’Rax keeps one human for himself: Alyssa Cosimo, his “favorite little pet.” Now Sy’Rax, actively opposing the Empire, searches for Acheron, the “Dark Planet” that’s reputedly older than the universe itself. Alyssa is crucial to his plan, but Ryan, her former flame, finds out that she’s still alive and relentlessly pursues her. Humankind, meanwhile, defends its borders around Mars against an evil that may be even more formidable than the Alcyoni. The novel drops readers into a story in progress, post–alien invasion, with a running start. Sheridan skillfully blends sci-fi elements with grounded, true-to-life components; for example, the hefty battle that comprises the final act is fought by what’s essentially a Navy fleet but in outer space. There are myriad surprises as the narrative unravels, including a traitor or two, signs of an ancient civilization on Acheron, and the reason why Sy’Rax needs Alyssa. The plot also features more than a few genre staples, such as Earth’s warship, the Phoenix—a rebuilt, crashed Alcyoni transport that allows humans to use alien technology. But the speedy, breathless tale also gradually reveals a searing mystery that clears the path for sequels.
An effective spacefaring tale with plenty of morsels for genre fans.