In Arriaga’s sci-fi debut, an elite military team tries to stop a vindictive enemy from a parallel universe hellbent on annihilating races and leaving planets in ruin.
The Huzien Alliance, encompassing various species (including humans), is headed by three immortal Founders: Lanrete, Ecnics, and Cislot. After the Founders’ Elite loses a member in battle, leader Lanrete brings in human Neven Kenk as chief engineer of the Foundra Ascension. Neven undergoes training in physical combat as well as mental defense against Cihphism: a master of telepathy, telekinesis, and more. But the newbie may very well see conflict sooner than he thinks. Someone’s been attacking colonies, the same entity who later orchestrates assassination attempts targeting the Founders’ Elite. A force of evil beings, with Sagren the Fallen Commander at the helm, has managed to squeeze through a rift between the Havin Plane (the natural one) and Enesmic Plane. Newly escaped from prison, the vengeful Sagren destroys whatever he can find, from different worlds to their inhabitants. The team sets out to thwart Sagren and his minions, not the least of which are reanimated corpses. Along for the ride is Lanrete’s pal Soahc, a Cihphist whose skill is legendary. But Sagren is a formidable foe, possibly too powerful for even Soahc—making the Fallen Commander virtually unstoppable. The story is a definitive space opera: beaucoup action with creatures and preternatural capabilities coupled with a bevy of romantic entanglements back on the good guys’ ship. Arriaga wisely concentrates on a select few of the many characters, and Soahc, Destroyer of Worlds, is a standout. The Elite uses call signs (Maj. Jessica Olic is Phoenix) that set the mood for blistering action and also spotlight the protagonist, Neven, who doesn’t get his own sign until the end. Unfortunately, the females, though laudable in the field, are otherwise flat. They’re generally objects of the male gaze (mostly Neven’s) or, in the case of catlike Uri, Tashanira, endlessly crave sex. The final 60 pages burst with lists of characters, character classes, races, and terminology. It’s a helpful guide that will come in handy as the series progresses.
Delightful genre piece with all the right ingredients: monsters, warfare, and romance.