Renneberg’s (In Earth’s Service, 2015, etc.) stellar sci-fi sequel to 2013’s The Mothership tells a story of alien contact and conflict and serves as a prequel of sorts to his epic Mapped Space series.
Ten years have passed since aliens inhabiting a massive mother ship crash-landed in a remote area of Australia; there, they were covertly defeated and all traces of their existence were removed. But when a trawler mysteriously disappears and native communities in the area begin vanishing en masse, American Col. Robert Beckman, who heads an elite team specializing in alien contact operating out of Area 51, is sent to investigate. He quickly realizes a chilling truth: the amphibious aliens have not only survived, but have been reproducing and acquiring knowledge of humankind for the last decade at an astonishing rate. With the looming extinction of humankind very much a possibility, Beckman and company must find a way to eradicate a vastly advanced and highly aggressive alien force without annihilating themselves in the process. Renneberg manages to integrate a massive back story into the main plot almost effortlessly, powering his grand-scale storytelling with meticulous description and relentless pacing. The brilliance of the story, though, is in the way the author develops the overarching storyline with intimate character stories, like those of Beckman and the alien matriarch, Beloved-of-the-Sea. By exploring the alien leader’s point of view with understanding, Renneberg manages to sidestep genre clichés to create a tale that feels new and original. Discerning sci-fi fans will find this novel, which can be read as a stand-alone, to be immensely satisfying.
Everything a great sci-fi novel should be: visionary, immersive, and thematically profound.