In 1939, an incredible archaeological discovery in China leads to contact with an ancient race of aliens—who fatefully join the Allied cause—in this debut novel.
In a Chinese mainland brutally conquered by Imperial Japan, Chuan-Jay Hoo (aka “CJ”) is a young prisoner of war. The soldier’s background as a U.S.-trained archaeologist puts him in the vanguard of a large, secret Japanese troop expedition to long-buried tombs and sacred mountains. What the invaders want with antiquities even older than the Shang Dynasty is revealed when they penetrate an underground complex and awaken the “Launtja.” These are reptilian space-alien warriors from the planet Shah, dormant for four millennia after their ship crashed and their injured captain went into time-warp stasis while the crew awaited rescue (4,000 years not being a daunting span for them). The Launtja taught the early Chinese the rudiments of civilization and the traditions of “dragons” (such monsters are the aliens’ flying biomechanical weapons). The reanimated Launtja mercilessly wipe out the Japanese intruders but spare CJ, finding him DNA-related kin. With Pearl Harbor, the soldier brokers diplomacy between the ETs, the Chinese leadership, and the Allies, trying to repair the visitors’ technology in exchange for fighting the Axis and furthering a secret “Project Manhattan” to develop super-bombs. But in a breathtaking second-act plot twist, the alien deep-space “rescue” fleet arrives and—to everyone’s shock—expands the conflict from a world war to an interstellar one. Alexanders pens an ambitious, sweeping, and entertaining escapist sci-fi yarn that promises to be the first installment of a five-part series, although this volume stands on its own. Chiang Kai-shek, Enrico Fermi, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Churchill, Hitler, and Stalin join the ensemble, although the boyish and plucky CJ winds up the center of things. There is a basically pulpish feel to the antics—an alien WMD is called the “Gronkageddon,” and CJ’s American mentor is a brash, fedora-wearing archaeology professor called Dr. Jones (first name: Harry). The audience will likely overlook that thanks to Alexanders’ storytelling finesse and the fresh point of view of early World War II from the Chinese political and cultural side, a vantage as alien to many Western readers as Mars. The material even survives an overused deus ex machina ending that, with a lesser work, might have felt like an immense letdown.
An epic and inventive Far East, space-invasion reimagining of World War II.