Huntington’s (The Rings of Elpída, 2013) sci-fi series continues, as the inhabitants of a dying Earth train youngsters to acclimate to another planet—and its mind-invading alien species.
The ringed planet Elpída was supposed to be Earth’s salvation, but an expedition centuries ago to colonize the new world was a failure. It turned out that Elpída was already inhabited by the Multitude, who exist as voices inside human minds; most people can’t handle the Multitude’s intrusion and quickly go insane. A group on Earth trains teenagers to withstand Elpída’s atmosphere and gravity, and genetically engineers children, such as Lucia, who are “hardwired” to safely hear the Multitude. Humans often converse with individually named voices within the Multitude, but it considers itself a unified collective. Some of its members, however, go rogue with their own agenda, and it becomes clear that the potential colonists may not be as welcome on Elpída as they’d hoped. This series installment, like the debut, has a tendency to reside more in the metaphysical than the tangible, which is practically a necessity, as the aliens have no physical form as far as humans know. However, Huntington’s latest has a far more palpable and engaging plot. The Multitude, for example, appears less frequently, and the bulk of the story takes place on Earth as Lucia, Isak, and others undergo simulations and training. Evelyn Feelds, who was part of the original expedition and is now accepted as one of the Multitude, is the titular emissary, and she’s often seen in flesh and blood as one of the trainees. There’s still plenty that’s more conceptual; for example, the Multitude use the word “love” almost as an honorific (“Evelyn-Our-love.”). The story also establishes its villains quite well; Shimon is a notable baddie who may turn deadly once the group reaches Elpída, and Uyol of the Multitude is distinguishable by his boldface dialogue. Huntington’s dexterity with prose is also undeniable: she describes an especially violent “sim” as “All gritted teeth and burning blood, like leaves falling in the autumn months or drops of acid rain.”
Sci-fi enthusiasts should prepare to be lured in by this series entry that’s sturdier and more assertive than the first.