Tor.com. Jan. 2024. 544p. ISBN 9781250233011. $29.99. SF
Recently dumped by her boyfriend and fired, Anna, a Kurdish refugee, already has enough to deal with before her close encounter with the wounded alien on her kitchen floor. Being that he’s an officer in the Joint Special Operations Command, Erik’s life mission is to bring order to chaos, and he’s sorely tested as he investigates what appears to be an alien starship. Clayton schemes in the background, willing to do anything to protect humanity. Hostile first contact brings these characters together, and then it’s a race against the clock to prevent nuclear Armageddon. Violent, vivid, vicious—this is an innovative military, sci-fi thriller that is equal parts action and introspection. It’s conceptually profound and touches upon many ethical and metaphysical subjects, including a peek into Zoroastrianism and a unique interpretation of souls. This doesn’t necessarily make for easy reading, but there’s no denying the intelligence in the writing.
VERDICT This stand-alone story from Dickinson (The Tyrant Baru Cormorant) thrives on the unexpected, and while the characters aren’t necessarily likable, the way they wrestle with doing the right thing versus doing the hard thing is authentic and thought-provoking.
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