In the second volume of Joseph’s (Colony Earth, 2012 ) fantasy saga, humanlike aliens try to adapt to settled life and interspecies marriage in Britain during the Iron Age, inciting conflict with each other as well as rival fiefdoms.
Derived more cleverly than one might expect from the “ancient astronauts” theories advanced by supermarket tabloids and such dubious scholars as Zecharia Sitchin and Erich Von Daniken, the Alterrans, a Nordic alien race, have technology bordering on magic; in fact, a quantum-physics spin on astrology is a legit science for them. After they establish a colony on Earth during the Iron Age, simultaneous catastrophes hit both worlds—perhaps astrological destiny. A comet strikes Earth and solar flares hit Alterra, indefinitely stranding the overwhelmingly male alien settlers in Albion (prehistoric Britain), with their energy sources, weapons and powers of rejuvenation waning. The best options for long-term survival are now intermarriage with humans and guiding the development of earthly civilization—an interaction that violates Alterran law. In this installment, set in and around the breakaway city of Khamlok, Alterra’s genetically predestined leader, Lil, witnesses the first generation of human-Alterran births, including his own children with his formidable bride, Alana, a survivor of Atlantis. Despite their lack of high-tech luxuries, the extraterrestrial colonists’ unaccustomed freedom from rigid Alterran society starts Lil’s men thinking for themselves, sewing seeds of internal dissent. Meanwhile, rival human fiefdoms (including a dark wizard) also struggle in the disaster’s wake, and they scheme against the “starmen” they envy and mistrust. The talky plot proceeds at a rather low boil until a pulse-quickening final act radically rocks Lil’s new world and sets invested readers on a countdown to the third volume. Fans of Doris Lessing’s Canopus in Argo: Archives series might find this to be an interesting riff. While the large ensemble cast borders on being unwieldy, Joseph slyly references ancient mythology and archaeology of the Celts, Greeks, Sumerians and Egyptians, which never comes across as too heavy-handed or obvious.
A new take on life, love and war among extraterrestrial colonists that successfully clears the launch pad.