The Benwarians, friendly aliens in Arizona trying to save humanity from itself, combat a formidable and persistent foe: either the devil incarnate or a mass of negative energy that is a pretty accurate stand-in.
Author Samuelson (Ride the Neural Networks, 2016, etc.) continues a Benwarian Chronicles series started in A Benwarian Fix (2009). Benwarians are the survivors of an advanced, benevolent nation from the doomed planet Lemmus whose other inhabitants (“Lemmings”…get it?) succumbed to religious mania, greed, and selfishness and allowed climate change and other ills to destroy their environment. An escaping colony of Benwarians has been nearing Earth, intending not only to make a new home for themselves, but to help Homo sapiens avoid the same mistakes. Porter Tellez is a cultured (British-accented, no less) blue-skinned Benwarian soldier-statesman sent ahead in a vanguard to Earth. Unfortunately, his initial landing site, in 1970s South Africa, made him an abused political prisoner of the racist apartheid system, exposed to some of the worst evil humanity had to offer. This includes “Alpha,” a primordial demon of malice, possessing one sentient being after another and spreading suffering and ruin, in the manner of the devil himself (which Alpha claims to be). Here, in the sixth book in the series, Porter and his extended Benwarian/human family and comrades, after escaping South Africa, have established themselves in rural Arizona, on a ranch secretly being prepped as a Benwarian base. Alpha, however, journeyed with them, hiding in the brain of Porter’s younger Benwarian ward Travis. Exorcised, the vengeful entity leaps from one body to another—including a bear and cow—intent on destroying the aliens and their loved ones. Alpha finds a most promising host in Jonny J. Miller, a peripheral character from an earlier book. The Benwarian bunch know that danger is near; meanwhile, under Alpha’s manipulation, Jonny falls in with organized crime, finds an accursed shotgun, and starts evolving into a murderer.
With its circumbendibus storyline, the novel shouldn’t work as well as it does, a testament to the author’s tale-spinning chops and ability to get into the heads (much like Alpha does) of characters with tangled backstories. Key elements seem à la carte helpings of previous sci-fi/fantasy material; the Porter-Travis relationship in particular is very similar to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s mentoring Luke Skywalker (minus Luke’s father drama), and the Benwarians, sure enough, use mojo very much akin to Jedi mind tricks in their routine heroics. But Star Wars characters never invoked the Bible while facing the Dark Side, as is done here. There’s a running debate between rationalist nonbeliever Porter; his devout African wife, Loreto; and his psychic half-caste son, Logan, over whether Alpha, aka Satan, has validity, or whether the infernal fiend they’re fighting merely represents “an archetype of ancient memories so powerful they have remained electrically charged thoughts.” The same goes for Jesus, Christianity, and heaven, disdained as fanciful by Porter (even though he’s a good-sport alien chap and attends weekly Sunday school at his wife’s insistence). This metaphysical argument remains politely unresolved.
A complicated, engrossing sci-fi saga, featuring religious overtones (albeit seasoned with skepticism) that may appeal to Christian readers.