An international expedition to meet alien soldiers exposes Earth to the possibility of apocalyptic war in Barone’s (Jettisoned, 2014, etc.) sci-fi novel.
In 2052, astronauts watch in shock and awe as a wormhole near Jupiter disgorges a fleet of spaceships and a giant juggernaut in pursuit; during a spectacular dogfight, the latter destroys half of the smaller craft before they annihilate it. The mysterious winners of the battle head for the solar system’s inner planets, and Earth’s superpowers—the United States, Russia, and China, who are barely at ease with one another—launch a team of specialists to meet the potential threat. Brooklyn, New York–born U.S. Marine Capt. Joe Delano, a linguist and tactician, is tapped to intercept and interpret for the invaders, and the humans open tentative lines of communication with what turns out to be two related alien species. The hirsute, tough Tarlons (imagine Star Wars’ Wookiees, with long ears) and the Halkins have fought running battles with the marauders in the bigger ships—the Ktarrans, described as an empire of sadistic predators. The newcomers gravely inform Delano and his comrades that Earth should expect a savage Ktarran attack and enslavement. But are these aliens telling the truth—and what can humanity do about it? Some readers may expect a few twists involving characters from Barone’s previous novella, but they figure little in the big picture. Overall, though, this is a wildly entertaining riff on the old Flash Gordon idea that, when multiple species confront a powerful menace, only earthlings have the nerve and cooperative ability to rally and go on the offense. And, indeed, the combat finale, with its long-shot strategies, unfolds cinematically, like a well-told caper film. Barone’s prose sometimes recalls that of a Cold War–era techno-thriller: “These are not basic Glocks....These are modified, match-quality weapons with longer barrels. The extra length increases the bullet’s velocity. The armor-piercing +P ammunition is quite powerful as well.” Also, Delano’s multiple relationships with foreign women puts him in James Bond/Matt Helm territory. However, even genre fans who are well-acquainted with these formulas will salute this yarn’s finesse.
A rousing, if familiar, actioner that squarely hits its target coordinates.