A ragtag but determined army of exiled human soldiers faces strategic and moral dilemmas while trying to wrest a conquered Earth from an alien empire.
In this sci-fi debut, humanity’s successful technological leap into becoming a space-going culture has brought calamity to the planet. First, contact with nomadic aliens called the Ahai, willing to share “wormhole” technology, triggered the ruinous “Corporate War” launched by human mega-capitalists trying to protect their interests. Then came the threat that placed the Ahai into perpetual drifting exile: a warrior species with insect and reptilian aspects called the Hetarek, who wiped out upward of 90 percent of humanity and turned Earth into a (fairly minor) mining colony in their empire. It is now over 20 years after the subjugation, and the remaining humans toil as slave labor, administrated by long-captured Ahai who are the Hetareks’ puppets plus designated human go-betweens who have mastered the Hetarek language. (Traitorous though they seem, some of these quislings try to avoid unnecessary bloodshed by the occupiers.) An eager force of humans with military training who fled with the accommodating Ahai is rearming and starting to retake old possessions. An elite away team infiltrates the Pacific Northwest to foment resistance and rebellion. But among a generation of humans (and Ahai) who have known nothing but the Hetarek jackboot (or, more accurately, foot claw), the would-be liberators find themselves facing unexpected distrust and treachery. In this series opener, characterizations tend to be pushed to the margins by the intrigue, action, and military jargon–laden dialogue. But Thomas has thought through the mindsets of victors and vanquished, skillfully shading in the psychologies of the opposing forces before small feints and ambushes bloom into full-scale war. The semi-open ending leaves the tale, which at times recalls L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth, open to many further possibilities (most of them promising dire mayhem). Readers may discern in the story’s three-way species conflict parallels to real-life invasions and occupations (quagmires in the Middle East come to mind). But if a metaphor is at work here, it doesn’t overshadow the essential heroics.
A well-written, fiery sci-fi tale about human warriors battling an alien regime.