In this debut sci-fi novel, intrepid survivors of the human race land on a distant world and find that they’re not alone—in more ways than one.
By the 32nd century, mankind’s progress made Earth uninhabitable and drove Homo sapiens within sight of extinction. To salvage the species, a succession of miles-long “Vanguard” spaceships, each supporting generations of carefully chosen survivors, went forth on one-way missions to re-establish civilization on Earth-like planets. The largest Vanguard space-ark eventually experiences the rise of headstrong Kyle Chandler, a firebrand engineering genius who takes power away from the shortsighted science/navigational and military castes (who, surprisingly, put up little fight). He then orders the colonization of an overlooked world that seems a viable New Earth. But the planet contains some enigmas, as explained in gee-whiz fashion by Chandler’s second-in-command, Ryan Evans. Settlers of Vanguard are soon attacked by predatory, dragonlike creatures who’ve apparently been rendered unable to reproduce by unknown bioengineers. A kingdom of feudal-level people also dwelling on the planet has somehow avoided the colonists’ long-distance scans—and its barbarous tyrant inexplicably has access to sophisticated weaponry. Despite these setbacks, the heroes almost always hold all the aces in this narrative, with fleets of flying dreadnoughts, superior firepower, and pretty girls to fall in love with that would be the envy of Star Trek’s Starfleet. Indeed, Menard’s lively space opera, the kickoff to a planned multivolume series, feels like Gene Roddenberry/Robert A. Heinlein-lite. Readers will have minimal sense that the characters are in true jeopardy most of the time—unless they’re one of those unlucky ensigns on the away teams. Indeed, when Chandler comes up against a third-act enemy that even he may not be able to beat, the ensemble remarks on what a change that is from the norm. Casual space-adventure hounds, however, should be sated.
An old-fashioned, can-do, pulp sci-fi planetary romp with few subtleties or moral shadings.