Rating: 5 out of 5
Krista D. Ball’s Traitor (Collaborator Book 1) posits a world in which alien contact happens on Earth–only to find out they’ve been here before (a loooong time ago), and that the aliens are biologically human. The Coalition of Planets quickly overpowers and conquers most of Earth. Rebecca St. Martin reacted the way most of us would when she was seized by the newcomers: she panicked and froze. When they offered to protect her family in return for her training to work on one of their bases, of course she agreed, even though it means most people think of her as a traitor. She works from day-to-day scraping by in a very meager existence. Then one day, Captain Amelia Andrewson comes to the station and sends Rebecca to work on the security systems in the secret prison below the base. Rebecca makes an excellent patsy for the Captain, who’s actually a resistance member with forged credentials. Unfortunately the black ops equivalent of the Coalition already has Rebecca under surveillance, putting Andrewson’s op at risk. Andrewson’s goal is to rescue a group of rebels who are being interrogated in the prison, and once Rebecca gets a look at what’s happening to those prisoners, she starts thinking that maybe it’s time she stepped up.
It’s fascinating to for once see everything from the point of view of someone who isn’t a hero. She’s timid. She panics easily and freezes whenever something bad happens. She’s afraid to stand up to people. It’s all too easy for Andrewson to manipulate her and push her into a position where she’ll very clearly take the heat when things go down. I really like her as a character, and she’s such an unusual “heroine” for a sci-fi novel.
There are other fascinating characters as well. The resistance’s bomb-making expert, Tobi Rowe, is wonderfully snarky. Maverick (and his crew of captured resistance members) fights back against the torture with his sense of humor. Zain Ravi, one of Rebecca’s co-workers, is uncomfortably pushy and interested in Rebecca, with fairly obvious sexual motives. A few other characters demonstrate that not everyone in the Coalition is a bad guy.
There are currently two other books in the series, and I look forward to finding out more about the alien cultures. The fact that the aliens share a family tree with humans is a great excuse to make the military base kind of homey and familiar. That’s nicely done. There’s also some sort of war going on over whether implants and genetic modifications are deemed to be acceptable; Rebecca’s body rejects implants, so she doesn’t have any. I’m hoping to learn more about that, too, in the other books. Certainly I like this volume enough that I plan to read the rest!
Content note for suicide, depression, and mostly off-the-page torture.