Sequel to The Burn Zone (2013), Decker’s medium-future, aliens-among-us yarn.
When a scientific experiment conducted in another universe went wrong, a vast alien installation appeared in the middle of China, transforming the world and the universe in ways few humans have grasped. Fifty years later, relations between humans and the haan are turbulent but mostly peaceful, with the haan slowly releasing advanced technology such as portable wormhole gates, antigravity and force fields. Starving and desperate, young Sam Shao joins a program in which humans foster haan infants and, as a result, develop powerful empathic bonds with them. She’s also made friends with an outcast haan, Nix. Still, she wonders why the haan project a field that forces humans to see only what the haan want them to see. The haan are building new colonies, while humans are disappearing, and there’s a thriving market in human flesh. Factional struggles within the haan lead to the release of a virus that transforms humans into seemingly powerful and unkillable monsters, yet the victims are convinced they haven’t changed at all; sometimes they don’t even notice. Sam’s attempt to broadcast the truth fails; as a fugitive, she hatches another plot to bring down the force field that envelops the entire haan installation. With fast and furious action, hairsbreadth escapes and surprises on every page, it’s eye-popping stuff, set against a gritty, grainy, visceral depiction of a city scarred by overpopulation, malnourishment and fear of the unknown. Yet it’s impossible to ignore the gaping holes in the logical fabric. Earth, for instance, is now too radioactive to sustain human life in the long term; even the stars are different—and apparently nobody noticed.
Readers who thrive on tension and excitement will feel themselves amply rewarded; those who tend to question underlying assumptions, not so much.