Zarzana’s (The Marsco Dissident, 2013) bravura second installment in his ongoing saga continues his broad-canvas approach to political power plays, betrayals, and invasions at the end of the 21st century.
In this novel, three factions scheme to attack or subvert Marsco, an Earth-based corporation with a virtual monopoly on software, advanced munitions, and interstellar-travel technology. The company decisively seized power from the corrupt governments of Earth in the mid-2000s. The planet is now a shattered, semi-occupied former battleground strewn with peasants known as “PRIMS,” while elites jockey for positions in Marsco’s ruling autocracy. The latter’s success is defined by finger-disc implants that signify rank, mobility, and access to Marsco cybernetworks. To many, these military-corporate rulers of mankind are no better than the fascist Continental Powers who brought on the planet’s ruin. Among the disenchanted is Anthony “Zot” Grizotti, an “iceman” who’s expert at tending humans in hibernation during long space voyages. He’s curious and incautious enough to join an alliance of secret Marsco opponents; one of them is the remaining fragment of the Continental Powers’ attack fleet, hidden in the asteroid belt, and the other is the Nexus, a fanatical, cultlike PRIMS rebel group underground on Earth. Meanwhile, Walter Miller, who was once one of Marsco’s premiere innovators, works with fellow insiders on the next generation of spaceship propulsion—a technology that’s potentially far beyond Marsco’s reach. Like its predecessor, this installment is heavy with dialogue. However, the speakers are all well-drawn characters who are either heavily conflicted or deeply committed (romantically or politically). When action arrives, it comes on like a firestorm of Tom Clancy–esque ordnance, aerospace feats, and strategy, though with considerably more introspection and less of the slam-bang video-gaming style that often makes similar material resemble a live-action cartoon. A helpful glossary of Marsco-era slang is essential, especially for newcomers to Zarzana’s universe.
Compulsively readable military sci-fi with a strong humanist side that isn’t overwhelmed by bloodshed and doomsday weapons.