I finally finished Karen Traviss's latest novel in her Wess'Har series, The World Before. Like the first two, I was absolutely stunned at how well it turned out, and it's become one of my favorite Science Fiction series thus far. If you haven't read it yet, there are some spoilers coming up.
The series is one of the harder ones to describe to people who haven't read the books. In book one, City of Pearl, the main character, Shan, is an environmental enforcement officer, and is approached by a government minister to oversee a mission to a colony that had been thought lost. It's 200 years away, and she's convinced to for various reasons. She's shipped out with a group of scientists and royal marines, and they land on the planet to find an interesting situation. First, there's three alien races with claims to the planet. The Wess'Har, a protector / hippy race, dedicated to preserving the ecosystem of the planet to protect the Bezeri. And there's another race that's been trying to get onto the planet for a long time. Their arrival upsets a delicate balance with the colonists and the Wess'har, and things are further complicated when two things happen: It's learned that one of the aliens, Aras, who befriends Shan, is infected with a parasite that makes him damn near invincible. And when one of the scientists kills an bezeri child in a science experiement. Furthermore, Shan is later infected. When the humans arrive, allied with the other alien race off planet, things get even more complicated.
In book two, Crossing the Line, Shan has moved to side with the Wess'har, to prevent the parasite, from reaching humans. (It essentially prevents you from dying) Agents on the humans side and the former marines work to stabilize an alliance with the other aliens, and work to try and capture Shan and destroy the parasite in it's natural form to prevent it from entering the human population. While this is happening, conflicts are brewing and war is almost inevitable. Shan is captured, and before she can be turned over to Earth, she accidentally infects one of the Marines, Ade, and jumps into space, and is presumed to have died. And in the midst of it all, the bezeri have been essentially wiped out by human agents and a colbalt salted nuclear warhead - which angers the technologically superior Wess'har.
Now, this brings us up to The World Before. The Wess'har have called in their ancestors, whom they broke ties with thousands of years ago, to help with the Human alliance and possible war. (Basically, calling in heavy guns) Shan is found floating in space, and survives - something I didn't see coming at all. This brings some tensions between Ade, her and Aras, whom have formed a relationship, being the only people infected. War is still brewing, and the new Wess'har want to reach reach to correct all the environmental wrongs that have occured. The other alien race (I'm blanking out on their names) also have a deligate who wants environmental controls on his planet (their species population grows too fast) but that causes more problems when he returns home. Things are spinning out of control.
Keep in mind that this is an extremely brief and limited summary of the books. There's a lot that I've missed.
I was really happy to have read this book - Karen is outstanding at description and characters, and some scenes I get chills at reading - such as when Shan wakes up to Ual's death at the hands of his own species. The book is much faster paced than City of Peal, about the level of Crossing the Line.
This entry also feels like just that - an entry. I got the impression that this was mainly a tranistional part of the story, with a lot of things about to happen throughout it, but which we'll see resolved later on in books 4-6. (Next book is entitled Matriarch- Karen's working on it now) But some major things did happen here, things that I didn't expect. Shan is back, the Human alliance is almost shattered by politics, and the Wess'har are somewhat split over how they should proceed. Furthermore, it was mentioned in Crossing the Line that the Wess'har from City of Pearl and their ancestors from the World Before don't see eye to eye on how they should go about doing things. I really got that sense, and really disliked the new guys because of that - Karen did an outstanding job getting that across the pages to the reader.
But, the book is an outstanding read. Karen is, in my opinion, one of the best contemporary Science Fiction writers out there. This series is dynamite and it's only going to get better. I have absolutely no idea how she'll proceed. And that's a good thing. If you haven't read the series - do so. Now. You're missing out.