A generation after a global nuclear war, surviving fragments of society in Ohio try to resurrect technology and defenses when Earth faces a looming menace from alien interlopers.
This fourth installment of a sci-fi series continues a saga in which three divergent, interstellar races collide in a cross-cultural mess of first contact catastrophic misunderstandings. This happens right after humanity backslides into the Dark Ages via a self-inflicted nuclear holocaust. When the lively narrative isn’t centered on exotic ETs—the salamanderlike Qu’uda or the insectoid Hoo-Lii—this volume offers a get-the-job-done yarn of dogged folks rebuilding remnants of North America in the decades following an atomic strike. With the unlikely new capital in Ohio (Buckeye State geography shoutouts abound), aging visionary leader Taylor MacPherson unites squabbling fiefdoms through the restoration of long-dormant electricity, industry, and transportation services—and, when necessary, diplomacy-cum–military conquest on horseback against unneighborly, bullying warlords. MacPherson’s indispensable ally is the alien Bilik “Billy Potato” Pudjata, a brilliant Qu’uda surgically altered by his exploratory spaceship crew to blend in with earthlings. (He is ultimately abandoned, along with four crew members, by the xenophobic Qu’uda in mothership orbit.) Bilik’s advanced science and clean-energy secrets permit humanity’s restoration of air travel and even a nascent space force—vital because the other Qu’uda, although war-wounded and in disarray deep in the solar system, aim to return and exterminate the human “savages.” How this resolves is effectively related by Wood (The Hoo-Lii Chronicles, 2019, etc.) exclusively through the barely comprehending (compound?) eyes of a Hoo-Lii expedition in Book 3. Replaying the events now is no less suspenseful, though the author has to span years of developments, battles, political intrigue, and Taylor’s melodramatic, tumultuous romantic life, giving the already hefty installment enough incidents for multiple volumes of its own. Going even wordier might have helped flesh out the characters and motivations, but this book still delivers breathless, addictive stuff. When one military guy looks forward to “making America great again,” the sentiment is sincere, not chuckleworthy.
A solid post-apocalypse/space-war action tale for sci-fi fans—who will likely imbibe the lean storytelling in big gulps.