After meddling from competing alien groups, humanity creates an astounding invention—prompting a galactic verdict that the dangerous species must be eradicated.
Fantasy/sci-fi author Hudgin (Green Grass, 2017, etc.) launches The End of Children series with the premise that eons ago, an alien expedition—captained by intelligent octopuses of the interstellar Grock Corporation—claimed prehistoric Earth for trading and natural-resource exploitation. The explorers genetically elevated primates, boosting their brain power to the degree that they would ultimately be able to make future commerce deals. But a rival ET mission from the aquatic planet Quyshargo (these aliens resemble mermaids and Black Lagoon monsters) covets Earth as well and subverts Grock’s plan with secret genetic and “dream planters” tinkering. Result: Millennia later, California graduate student Lily suddenly conceives a practical technique for instantaneous travel/teleportation she implements with her boyfriend, Kevin, and classmate Doug. Dubbed the Rosy Transmitter (for the color of its beam), the process is soon sold by a greedy professor to competing world governments, and even the White House envisions it principally as a weapon. The invention alarms the Grock aliens monitoring the planet. Homo sapiens, they believe, are too vicious for tech that could send them rampaging destructively across the universe. After briefly abducting the three students, the aliens begin using a sanctioned, nonviolent genocide technique, spreading a virus that halts human reproduction. Lily is the last woman to get traditionally pregnant (via Kevin) while both are held virtual prisoners by a panicked U.S. government. Hudgin details the next tumultuous nine months with succinct but well-thought-out strokes (whereas other authors might overpopulate the narrative with a high page count) of how Earth society reacts to the paradigm shift of the Rosy Transmitter and imminent extinction through sterility. Readers will find echoes of Kurt Vonnegut, Harry Harrison, and Philip José Farmer (especially the last’s “Seventy Years of Decpop”) in Hudgin’s smart, edgy blend of the sardonic and the apocalyptic. Some may sense a determinedly schizoid tone, as serious extinction concerns (and involved discussions on cloning) contrast with the campy Grock and Quyshargo minions behaving like maritime pirates despite their dire pursuit of enlightened capitalism of a space alien sort. The loose ends and cliffhanger ending point immediately toward the sequel, and, unlike Earth’s people, the material seems very fertile indeed.
A clever blastoff of a seriocomic sci-fi saga that plays fecund what-if games with technology and social change.