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Review: A Planet of Wrath and Tears – Colin Alexander

A Planet of Wrath and Tears - Colin Alexander

Genre: Sci Fi, Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, First Contact

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About The Book

A distant star is calling us. Will it end in tears?

Could the first contact between humanity and an intelligent species from outer space come at a worse time? The signal arrives when Earth is only beginning to recover from an apocalyptic cyber- and nuclear war. Transportation is by horse. New construction relies on salvage from ruined cities, and indoor plumbing is a thing of the past.

Leif Grettison was an army ranger and then an exoplanetary scout who survived two interstellar missions. He thought he had finally found a home and family to call his own when a rider appeared in town, looking for help to deal with a message received from another star system—a message nobody understands.

To Leif, this message is the most important event he can imagine. He wants to learn what it says, who sent it, and have humanity respond to it. It is important enough for him to embark on horseback across what used to be the eastern United States to reach Earthbase, the birthplace of humanity’s former interstellar exploration program.

At Earthbase he discovers an insular small town in the wilderness, its inhabitants riven by internal politics and preoccupied with day-to-day survival. Tech is almost nonexistent, and even those who want to respond to the mysterious star signal are not sure how. Worse, Leif’s arrival upsets the precarious balance that exists among the factions vying for control.

Can Leif reconnect humanity to the stars, or will he start a civil war? If we do reach out to the stars, will we find the stuff of our dreams…or unleash Earth’s biggest nightmare yet? Will Leif regret the decisions he makes?

The Review

Damn, this is a wild ride.

After managing to cram four separate sci-fi genres (colonization, space mystery, and dystopian/space western) into the first three books in the “Leif the Lucky” series, Alexander throws in a new one from out of left field – first contact.

Leif Grettison, aka Leif the Lucky, is the everyman of the story, a Starman from our near future who takes an epic ride through humankind’s future via repeated relativistic journeys to far flung planets. Every time he leaves Earth, a sizable chunk of time passes here while he’s out there.

In book three, Leif and the crew of the Dauntless returned from their latest mission to find Earth a smoking ruin, populated only by bands of survivors of the apocalypse. In the process of trying to reach the surface, he loses everyone, even his beloved Yong, and muddles his way into a war. The end of the book teases an alien first contact signal at a place Leif thought was destroyed – Earthbase.

Book four sees Leif and No Nonsense, a young man he has adopted in all but name, setting off for Earthbase with Caleb, a scout from the enigmatic place, because a signal from a distant star has been received and no one knows what to do about it. But the Earthbase Leif finds bears little resemblance to the bright and shining beacon of hope he left behind for his last starshot. Instead, it’s a simmering hotbed of political dysfunction, with its tiny population split into blues, reds, and greens in a miniature parody of today’s political scene.

Leif is determined to answer that call from the stars, even if no one can decipher what it’s saying. And despite Earth’s current post-technological state, there might just be a surprising way to do it…

Like in the previous books in the series, the characters here are all strong. I especially loved Shoshanna (Sho) Peterson – a feisty young woman who won’t take no for an answer, and Hannah Jin, a doctor who comes along for the ride and finds out how much she doesn’t know.

Leif is, as always, our everyman in the story, grounding it and providing a perspective not too for removed from our own.

One word of warning – Alexander is not afraid of racking up a body count to advance the story, so don’t get too attached… to anyone.

This story surprised me, both for its astute political take and for sending poor Leif the Lucky off on another careening tangent that scratched my sci-fi itch. Book three was probably my least favorite – simply because it was in such a mundane, post-apocalyptic Earth-based setting, though the story was great – but here we get back to sci-fi basics, and I loved it.

Strap in and get ready for a wild ride that sidesteps stale first-contact tropes and brings us something fresh, with enough humanity, whiz-bang tech and a roller-coaster of a plot that ends with a bang (and leaves you wanting so much more from book five, coming out hopefully in 2024). A masterful work of modern-day sci-fi.

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.

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