In this debut novel, a strange, young, grassy, and lopsided planet named Zeon faces catastrophe.
On Zeon, there were once large treelike organisms called timbers (long since chopped down, but still mined for necessary materials). The planet’s dominant feature is an enormous volcanic mountain, Altai, nearly twice the height of Everest. There are two major groups of large-eyed, big-footed humanoids, arranged around two smallish seas: the Nearside Zeons and the Farside Zeons (“In the Nearside tribe, males have dark brown fur and females, light brown. This is in contrast to the Farside Zeons which are dark red and light red and want nothing to do with Nearsiders”). Both tribes make many uses of ocean scum in their daily lives. Nearside fishermen Kairn and Trillio are among the many Zeons (Nearside and Farside) caught in a disaster as their nearby planetary neighbor, Tareon, slips into a collision course with their home world. The Zeons have a bizarre technology, perhaps held over from past ages, that permits them to Launch—to fly off their world and into space—but it is fraught with peril. As Tareon draws closer and the Zeons are forced into underground bunkers, who will survive the impending doom? Billings’ entire novel is written in the present tense, with occasional line drawings included as illustrations. The story offers intriguing worldbuilding and plenty of action. But characters are thin, trapped in a horrific situation that would reduce even the most three-dimensional personalities to little more than survival mode. Character names are blunt, often monosyllabic, and odd (for example, “Scepter,” “Torq,” and “Kairn”). Place names like Zeon evoke anime, old sci-fi TV shows, and real-world religions; references to prosaic Earthly items such as football, Roman candles, and New York City are freely made by the inelegant narrative voice. Dialogue is serviceable at best (“Scepter, our families are gone and Alor and I are prepared to start the unknown so that each of you may live on”). The tale builds to a climax that is meant to be grandly inspiring but is instead uneasy and unfulfilling.
A simplistic sci-fi saga.