cover image The Spacetime War

The Spacetime War

Les Johnson. Baen, $16 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-982125-65-3

Johnson (Saving Proxima) delivers an ambitious but uneven military science fiction thriller set in the 22nd century, when humanity’s defenders must uncover the secret of the alien attackers who are annihilating Earth’s far-flung colonies. Capt. Winslow Price of the Commonwealth Space Navy’s HMSS Indefatigable and Capt. Anika Ahuja of the Indian Space Navy’s Mumbai put their romantic relationship on hold when duty and the mounting crisis pull them in different directions to defend Earth’s remaining colonies against their impossibly humanlike extraterrestrial aggressors. When the Mumbai vanishes while traveling between worlds, it adds an even stranger wrinkle to the conflict, even as it offers up an unexpected solution. Johnson, a NASA physicist, brings verisimilitude and scientific accuracy to this adventure, and his passion for the details of space travel will undoubtedly please readers looking for old-school hard science fiction. His narrative enjoys a slow-building sense of development as he gradually unravels multiple mysteries, but it suffers from shallow characterization, an abrupt climax, and a denouement that occurs mostly off-page, with some of the premise’s most important questions handwaved for potential sequels. It’s a bumpy ride, but Johnson’s fans will find plenty to enjoy. Agent: Peter Rubie, FinePrint Literary. (Oct.)