In this sci-fi series, an alien species secretly on Earth tries to prevent humanity’s extinction.
This collection opens with The Chaos Machine, which describes freight haulers from the planet Shoomar landing on an unknown world in 5342 B.C.E. Their ship, capable of traversing the space-time continuum, experienced a “Bad Jump” that has left crew members stranded on Earth. Fortunately, they can live comfortably on the planet, which is comparable to Shoomar. But according to projections from the ship’s navigational system, earthlings will be wiped out in a thousand years, and the Shoomarans want to ensure that doesn’t happen. Millennia later, in the present day, California billionaire Allen Brookstone mysteriously vanishes. He’s been taken by an eccentric group with advanced technology, including the Chaos Machine, which has predicted the imminent end of the world. The band needs Allen’s assistance in stopping the apocalyptic event. Second Contact takes place in “5342 AB,” when Cassiopeia, a 19-year-old human living on the planet Perseus VII, learns about one of her ancestors who aided the Shoomarans in saving Earth’s inhabitants. Cassiopeia subsequently spearheads the fight for humans to be admitted into the intergalactic Universal Alliance, but some in the Shoomaran Empire have trouble believing in the strange race of Homo sapiens. The final and shortest novel, Mankind 2.0, takes readers back to Allen’s time period. He concocts a drastic plan to safeguard humanity from a Chaos Machine–predicted superstorm as well as other potential doomsday scenarios.
Hamilton’s (Goddess of the Gillani, 2018, etc.) three books skillfully complement one another. While each novel is a self-contained narrative, this collection feels like one lengthy story divided into a trio of sections. There’s the occasional recap of preceding events, but it never overwhelms the saga or slows the overall steady pace. In the same vein, both technology and popular sci-fi notions are relatively simple. Portable notepods, for example, are familiar devices, described at one point as “computer tablets on steroids.” Even the more exotic Chaos Machine is comprehensible. Any intercession based on the machine’s predictions calls forth the butterfly effect, a phenomenon the author wisely assumes sci-fi fans already know. The author’s true focus is the story’s emotional core, including the Shoomarans’ ultimate decision to help humans; Cassiopeia’s exploration of her origin; and the very real possibility that a particular cataclysm will be unavoidable. Unfortunately, dialogue among so many characters is sometimes too interchangeable. Though Hamilton clarifies that he’s essentially translating the alien Universal language into English, the aliens and humans mostly sound alike, as one of the Shoomarans even drops a Star Wars–inspired line. But characters are otherwise distinctive. Tireless Cassiopeia is a standout: Securing admission into the alliance requires outsmarting the Shoomaran prime minister, who’s 69,000 years old. The book likewise boasts a bit of mystery, particularly throughout Contact. It entails a few references, like the Final Blackout, that aren’t clear until Mankind hops back in time.
A trilogy of exuberant and lucid tales that exhibits a fear of the future, regardless of the time period.