REVIEWS

Featured in the Midwest Book Review October 2014

The Warren: Severxance Living Legacy Saga – Book One
Becca Hardy
No ISBN, Publisher, $TBA
Website: http://www.severxance.com

“Billed as Book One of the ‘Severxance Living Legacy Saga’, The Warren already states that it’s part of a series about some kind of legacy. What is striking from its first paragraph, however, is that this involves an alien stranded on earth, caught in a human torture chamber. And then things get interesting.

What if you were stranded on another world with no memory and no way home? What if you were left behind with an infant to care for, and what if your species was capable of long life and regeneration? And what if you devoted the centuries to filling in many blanks about your past and keeping your heritage a secret, only to find out that the way home is paved with strange intentions entwined with human affairs?

That’s only the opening salvo of a story that combines the best of alien investigations and human affairs to take hard sci fi to a whole new level.

Now, a note: it’s been decades since hard sci fi was at its heyday. That position has been eroded over the years by a preponderance of sword and sorcery and urban fantasy: two genres that often eschew much of any science in favor of the trappings of magic. So it’s especially refreshing and notable to find here not just a throwback to a genre that once rested firmly on hard science, but which holds a treasure trove of new possibilities.

Some of the reasons why this is possible is Becca Hardy’s attention to building believable, winning protagonists, plus an overriding mystery that permeates the story line and truly involves readers with passion and effortless reading. A twist on the traditional Simak-like Way Station setting that has her alien protagonists unwilling (and unknowing) participants in a greater experiment than an accidental stranding doesn’t hurt, either.

Another reason lies in the hard science itself. Attempts to reinvent alien transportation devices, considerations of collective memory’s wider place in the universe, and links between memories and the shape of reality itself keep science-minded readers immersed and fascinated; and that’s not an easy task in a genre overwhelmed with marginal plots, predictable routines, and (too often) one-dimensional characters.

For a sci-fi book to be truly engrossing, all of these elements must be present – and rarely are. The Warren thus stands out from the crowd in many ways, and readers who become hooked from its first words will find its action relentless, its overall science believable and sound, and its characters and their motivations exquisitely logical: “Catching a secret government agency in the act of dissecting a fellow alien was no surprise. It was the main reason he’d avoided them so long… Physical pain he could watch—take. What he couldn’t take was being out of the loop. If he hadn’t been so desperate for answers, he wouldn’t have risked chasing down his kind at all. He knew three things about the torture victim. One: He was the only other alien Foster knew of on Earth. Two: They’d arrived together. Three: The guy wanted nothing to do with him. He’d run off so fast after they landed, Foster didn’t even learn his name.”

The basic questions of identity, purpose, and life’s meaning are universal ones: their presentation here takes another turn and makes them even more poignant.

Add several aliens to the mix, stir, give them uncertain (but definite) connections and purpose and add a healthy dose of interspecies interaction and conflict and you have: violence (at times strong), humor (always sharp and unexpected), romance (a surprise ingredient), mystery (all-pervading) and hard science (complex yet easily accessible).

The Warren proves one of those compelling, can’t-put-it-down reads you’ll feel sorry to see end. But, wait – there will be more!”

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