Pros: Action-packed; stands alone; fascinating world
Cons: Lags just a little in the middle; one bad guy/madman a bit stereotypical
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review book courtesy of Penguin Group.
Humans and Selkies—genetically modified water-breathers—lived peacefully together on the planet Marseguro until religious zealots from Earth came to wipe out any modified humans. To save themselves, the Selkies developed a human-specific plague. They never anticipated that a traitor would escape and carry the plague to Earth, where it could potentially wipe out an entire planet full of people. Despite their misgivings, they plan a mission of mercy. They load up the Holy Warriors’ ship with vaccine and plot a course for Earth, led by Richard Hansen, relation of Victor Hansen, the man who created the Selkies in the first place. Unfortunately, they don’t know what they’ll find when they get there. And they don’t know whether they’ll be welcomed as saviors, or hunted down as abominations.
Edward Willett’s Terra Insegura is a sequel to his Marseguro. As happens all-too-often with reviewing, I haven’t read that previous book. However, that does make me eminently qualified to declare that Willett did an outstanding job writing Terra Insegura in such a way that it makes sense to new readers. In case that doesn’t sound like much, we’re talking about a very detailed world; a plot in which the world history plays a large role; and a plot in which the previous book’s events are very important. This makes it particularly difficult to create a novel capable of standing on its own, and yet he succeeded.
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!