Earthrise by William C. Dietz (2002) – After a couple chapters into the book, I said, “I’ve read this before,” but because it’s a William C. Dietz space opera and the characters are so gripping, I had to read it again. I read a couple more pages before realizing I’d read the first book, Deathday, but not this one. The brave heroes from that book went on to kick some snooty alien butt. Obviously, the first book wasn’t so incredible that I raced right out to find the sequel, but it is a rousing adventure and a very interesting concept, sort of an ID4 without Will Smith or Jeff Goldblum to save the day.
Earth has been enslaved. Strange insect-like aliens have landed, destroyed most of the human race with their superior technology and forced the surviving humans to build giant stone pyramids for their new masters. Interestingly enough, the aliens are three versions of one race – the black rulers, the paler warriors, and the white minorities. Oh, and there’s one race of rodent slaves who do all the technical weight-lifting. When the humans discover that the giant pyramids are actually incubators for the aliens (and the humans will all be killed during the simultaneous birthing), they become desperate to overthrow their conquerors.
The interesting characters are the acting president (former governor of Washington State), his male head of security, a female doctor, a female FBI agent, a rodent dissident, a racist couple, a cult leader, an archeologist and a handful of other colorful folks, all seeking to destroy the invaders during the time they are helpless giving birth (if not before). The head of the aliens – giving birth prematurely and therefore an abomination to his people – tries to complete the ritual birthing centers and hold himself together (literally) against political pressure from within and rebellion from without.
Okay, so that’s just in the first half dozen chapters. You can see why I couldn’t stop reading it. A lot of the book makes it apparent it’s a sequel, and there are mentions of the president’s dead wife, battles that occurred earlier and elsewhere, and the friction between the insect castes themselves. I like a book that hits the ground running and this one certainly does that.
After a swash-buckling beginning, it slowed down a little too much to go into the behind the scenes series of meetings and accommodations between the different races. The rodents may be too culturally beaten and religiously indoctrinated to rebel, the humans who managed to escape the initial bloodshed are scary folks who lived way off the grid, and one of the president’s armed guards is a sadistic rapist.
There’s dirt and filth and inhumanity – some of it man’s inhumanity to man. The racists are disgustingly racist, the overlords are fond of killing humans slowly and with great relish, and even the reluctant collaborators would just as soon kill each other as sit down with the president and try to overthrow the aliens. The reverse discrimination is interesting (the aliens only allow dark-skinned Americans to be overseers because obviously black is better). The president is black, and although some humans consider him a collaborator, he’s the main reason so many people are still alive.
They only have two months days to live.