Stranded in Ohio after a nuclear war, an alien from an extraterrestrial expedition strives to revive human technology to repair his damaged spaceship in this sci-fi sequel.
Wood’s (Collapse, 2018, etc.) series curtain raiser featured Cleveland area engineer Taylor McPherson assuming leadership after a global nuclear strike by Islamic terrorists. That attack caused the “Collapse,” a decline of worldwide civilization into pre-industrial savagery. McPherson and some Ohio neighbors formed “the Clan,” a community to defend against raiders and looters. Now, 20 years later, the Clan is a self-sustaining, agricultural nation-state. But—led by status-hungry “Elders,” who barely remember old times—the group is also insular and tribal, little better than its backward rivals like the “Midwest Federation” downstate. Into the Federation, however, arrives an extraordinary visitor who was a subplot in the first book. Bilik Pudjata belongs to a deep-space mission by the reptilian Qu’uda, who detected life on Earth—ironically just before the nuclear holocaust. With their starship crippled by shots from an automated defense satellite, the aliens’ one hope is Bilik, clumsily re-engineered as humanlike to infiltrate the “dry land egg-sucking mammalian vermin” and restart metal-forging technology to build crucial replacement parts. Readers with memories of the later, darker chapters of Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court may note the captivating parallels. Bilik—his name phonetically misinterpreted as “Billy Potato”—becomes the technocratic boss of the Federation and reintroduces electricity, mass-produced guns, and regimented discipline to barely comprehending feudal barbarians. Meanwhile, a suspicious and bellicose Clan needs the advice of the aged, deposed McPherson on what to do about unfamiliar weapons, trained soldiers, and flying machines. Wood’s first installment of his Clash of the Aliens five-part series was a well-told but standard post-apocalyptic survivalist tale. Here he contributes a limber and suspenseful second volume. McPherson and especially Bilik are among the few sympathetic characters in this coarse world, with each one heroic and tirelessly resourceful yet ultimately cast aside by their selfish brethren. Wood offers considerable battle scenes (“That’s a lot of gunfire....It was Shig’s last thought as a large caliber lead ball smashed through his chest, lifting him out of his saddle”). Amid the vivid clashes is the tantalizing question of whether the two remarkable protagonists will ever actually meet and what might ensue. The prospect of future books is indeed promising.
A superior second installment of an intriguing dystopian saga.