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Terra Insegura (Daw Science Fiction) Mass Market Paperback – May 5, 2009
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About the Author
Edward Willett is the award-winning author of more than fifty books of science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction for adults, young adults, and children. Born in New Mexico, he moved to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, from Texas as a child, and now lives in Regina, Saskatchewan, with his wife, Margaret Anne Hodges, P.Eng., their teenaged daughter, Alice, and their black Siberian cat, Shadowpaw. Ed received the Aurora Award for best Canadian science fiction novel in English in 2009 for Marseguro (DAW Books); its sequel, Terra Insegura, was short-listed for the same award. Ed has also written for DAW as Lee Arthur Chane (Magebane) and E.C. Blake (The Masks of Aygrima trilogy). In addition to writing, Ed is an actor and singer who has appeared in numerous plays, musicals, and operas, both professionally and just for fun. He can be found at edwardwillett.com.
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On Marseguro, the attempted takeover by the fascist-theocratic government of Earth, The Body, has been thwarted by a biological weapon, created by scientists of the Selkie race--humans modified for an aquatic existence--who share the planet with "nonmods"--i.e., genetically unaltered humans. The weapon releases a plague virus that kills unvaccinated nonmods, while leaving the Selkies immune.
Unfortuntely, the plague was spread to Earth thanks to the confused and naive Chris Keating. Now a group of Selkies have returned to Earth with the vaccine, not knowing what they will find. And they find more than a few surprises. Nothing is as they expected, with the remnants of the Holy Warriors of The Body hanging on, and with the wretched Keating still causing havoc wherever he goes. The expedition is led by Richard Hansen, son of Victor Hansen, the man who created the Selkies in the first place, and he makes one dubious decision after another until finally he manages to do the . . . well, you'll see.
Mr. Willett convinces you that Earth's would-be rescuers (well some of them) would actually care about saving the people who tried to kill them. He has created a series of beautiful setups, from multiple points of view, that let you know what's going to happen before the characters do. Indeed, a prolonged sequence wrapped around several others concerning efforts to reboot a spaceship AI will make you beyond anxious for that ship to get on its way. And when the action finally starts, the author demonstrates his considerable skills at keeping things moving.
And he makes the motivation of his characters convincing (my favorite is the Selkie Emily Wood, heroine of "Marseguro," who plays a large role here). You'll care what happens to them. Nicely done.
The Body Purified, the religious group that controls much of Earth and believes "moddies", or modified humans, must be wiped out, is an interesting creation. Their history and origins keep them from being just another intolerant religious group, which is appreciated. The Avatar, or leader, of the Body ends up as a somewhat archetypal over-zealous religious leader, but what makes him interesting is the emotional route he takes to get there.
I don't want to say too much about the other bad guy in the novel, since it would give away plot developments. Instead I'll just say that unfortunately he is a rather stereotypical megalomaniacal madman, which was mildly disappointing. I would have liked to see a little more from him.
The interactions between Richard Hansen and the Selkies on his team are wonderful. They have reason to hate all members of the Body, and to equate all Earth humans with the Body, so the mission of mercy is something they don't all feel equally happy about. Richard, being human and having known humans from Earth, cares far more about simply making sure the race survives, whether that means the Body or not. This creates some wonderful conflict.
While the world and non-villain characters are highly enjoyable, however, one of the high points of Terra Insegura is Willett's skill with action. The pacing (other than a slight lag in the middle) is tension-packed, and the action scenes gripping. I was in the mood for some good old-fashioned SF adventure, and Terra Insegura delivered!
Terra Insegura begins where Marseguro left off. The plague released by Dr. Christianson-Wood to fend off the Holy Warriors on the planet Marseguro has been accidentally sent back to Earth by the infected, but immunized, traitor Chris Keating. Richard Hanson, clone of the late Victor Hanson, who created the Selkies and whisked them away to Marseguro to protect them from the fanatical, purity-obsessed Body, heads to Earth on a mercy mission, hoping to stop the plague before it wipes out mankind. But the Body is not so easily weakened, even back home on Marseguro, and Richard will soon find out how well the Body can bounce back, even from a plague designed to kill pure humans.
Terra Insegura is a novel with a few tricks up its sleeve. Plot twists, surprise characters, and well-drawn action make this novel both enjoyable and a prime example of why science fiction is still awesome. I find it difficult to complain about this novel, because I had problems putting it down. Terra Insegura has just enough action to keep me fixed to the page, and plenty of suspense (and even a little romance) to make this more than just another book of explosions and space battles. It's a novel that knows it is good science fiction and isn't afraid to show it.
My only criticism is that the ending, while a good one, could have used a few more pages of development. Most of the ending works perfectly, but one tiny part needed a tad more to feel less rushed. But this criticism seems small compared to all that is great about this novel.
If you're a science fiction nut, you should pick this book up. Terra Insegura is science fiction at its best, and hopefully we'll be seeing much more from Mr. Willett in the future.