The World Before
Eos, 2005 (2005)
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Reviewed by Tim Davis
t is the year 2376, and a military expedition is marooned on Wess'ej, twenty-five light years from Earth. Following a tactical faux pas of astronomical ramifications, the military expedition has annihilated nearby Bezer'ej. Commander Lindsay Neville, with Mohan Rayat as loyal supporter and accomplice, was responsible for detonating the nuclear bombs on Bezer'ej, and the fragile bezeri of that planet simply and nearly instantly ceased to exist. Neville's motives and methods - as she argued - were strategically proper and politically necessary. After all, she sought to do nothing more or less than destroy the mysterious c'naatat, a potentially valuable and possibly dangerous parasitic life-form that transforms and indefinitely extends the life of its host and makes the host indestructible. The scope and offensiveness of the collateral genocide, however, has outraged the wess'har, the indigenous inhabitants of Wess'ej. Slow to anger but resolute and merciless when sufficiently provoked, the matriarchal government of Wess'ej, having failed in its sworn obligation as protectors of Bezer'ej, now seems to be slowly but irrevocably moving towards retaliatory action against the offending Earth.
eanwhile, Ade Bennett, a member of the ill-fated expedition, now faces an uncertain future on Wess'ej, and his life is further complicated by the fact that he has been dismissed from the service, and - like the several hundred other unwelcome visitors from Earth, including Neville and Rayat, who have received an uneasy sanctuary on nearby Umeh among the isenj - Bennett worries that he has been apparently abandoned to his fate by the Federal European Union back home on Earth. Bennett's despair is deepened by his grief over the apparent death of Shan Frankland. After Frankland went to her near-certain death in the vacuum of space after the Bezer-ej disaster, Bennett feels utterly alone and seems to have lost all reason for living.
ensions build between Wess-ej and Umeh, but a more powerful force from the ancestral home planet, the
, will soon impose its judgment upon the individual humans responsible for the slaughter. Of course, Earth itself must answer for its complicity, but significantly and most surprisingly, everyone's fates - Wess'ej's, Umeh's and Earth's - may ultimately depend on the dead woman: Shan Frankland.
aren Traviss's exciting SF novel - sequel to the equally powerful
City of Pearl
Crossing the Line
- is a fascinating tale of a fateful encounter between alien worlds. Drawing upon traditional SF thematic concerns - the speculative future of politics, populations, and environments beyond Earth's boundaries - Traviss uses
The World Before
to more closely look at the possibilities and implications of intercultural (interplanetary) anxieties and the endangerment (exploitation) of species. Filled with vivid characterizations and enriched by a complex plot,
The World Before
is a daring critique of what might actually happen when human empires dare to expand beyond our currently limited boundaries.
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