In this third volume in Joseph’s (Khamlok, 2013, etc.) sci-fi series, members of an alien civilization return to their planet, Alterra, after being stranded on Earth only to encounter terrorist attacks and treachery.
Alterrans have settled Earth, and the portal to return to their planet can’t be powered due to a solar eruption destroying Alterra’s atmosphere. When they’re able to generate enough energy for a portal, they send back the elders as well as Anu, son and successor to Supreme Leader Ama. Unfortunately, Banallo of the Kans—who are in opposition to Anu’s clan, the Ens—rightly surmises Anu’s leeriness of his son, En.Lil. The father knows that Alterran purists—particularly those on the Supreme Council—will disapprove of Lil’s decision to adapt to Earth for survival, defying their civilization’s vegan ways by consuming meat and marrying an earthling, Alana, who gave birth to their hybrid son, Iskur. But Banallo isn’t the only threat to Anu’s imminent leadership: People are protesting living underground while the surface is being terraformed, while the bombing of solar arrays suggests terrorism from saboteurs who may be working with the Kans. In the meantime, Lil’s half brother, En.Ki, and sister, Ninhursag, look for a way to bring back Lil’s dead wife, a plan that has unexpected results. Readers new to Joseph’s series may have trouble adjusting. Although the book opens with a message from Lil to his “quad” grandfather Zeya, and it adequately recaps the previous novels, numerous characters and places are named with little context. After those names are eventually clarified, it’s apparent that someone like Rameel is an ally to Lil, while “that pesky Elinara,” Lil’s quad grandmother, is largely antagonistic. The author includes a good deal of stellar technology, often with names that make their purposes self-explanatory, like a soundgun or rejuvenation chamber; sadly, there’s little visual reference, and any tech specifics are unknown. Joseph isn’t frugal with her descriptions, however, and she’s quite literally colorful, distinguishing Kan leaders’ black eyes from En leaders’ cobalt blue. In another stirring image, traveling through a portal renders the humans’ skin luminous and their hair white. Though a possible rebellion on Alterra is teased for most of the story, a strange turn near the end has a character wind up on trial, paving the way for Book 4.
An energetic sci-fi yarn that’s sure to please series fans and maybe even recruit a few new ones.