Friday, June 24, 2016

James Review -- Independence Day: Crucible

This week I decided to review Independence Day: Crucible by Greg Keyes. 

The novel covers the two decades between the original movie and its upcoming sequel with a number of parallel plotlines. The largest of the plotlines focuses first on the efforts of the survivors of the movie cast to defeat the alien remnant forces that emerge from the wrecks of the downed alien city destroyers as the battle shifts from the skies to the ground where the aliens unleash a mix of their own technology with captured human weapons. 

Efforts then shift to uniting the survivors of humanity and rebuilding civilization despite the loss of roughly half the human population. While President Whitmore and his successors focus on the political front and Steven Hiller works on helping train a new generation of pilots, David Levinson refuses to become the head of the Earth Space Defense program intended as a shield against a feared return by force responding to a possible distress call from the invaders instead wanting to focus his efforts on reverse engineering captured alien technology and combining it with Human science.  

But that decision comes to haunt him when his efforts to slow a project he fears is being pushed too quickly fail and the rush leads to tragedy, he must accept the role he once rejected. Another plot follows Jake Morrison, orphaned by the invasion, through his efforts to gain the knowledge needed to enter the elite schooling which will set him on the path to the Earth Space Defense Academy, along the way befriending, and adopting for all intents and purposes fellow orphan Charlie Miller. Then, at the academy, Jake becomes close to both Dylan Hiller and Patricia Whitmore but in time his own ego will become one of his most powerful enemies and may also become a threat to his friends as well. 

A third plotline focuses on Dikembe Umbutu beginning with his journey from England to his homeland in the Congo during the invasion. When he arrives home, he meets his twin brother and finds that their father Upanga has declared their home province an independent republic and is refusing all foreign aid. And, unlike the other alien destroyers, the one in Dikembe’s home landed intact rather than being shot down making that area the strongest concentration of alien forces on Earth. Dikembe finds himself thrust into a leadership role in his new country’s military, but when the aliens discover who the leader of the human forces in the region is, he and his brother are made priority targets for capture. While their father leads a rescue mission, Dikembe’s brother is killed. And in time Upanga becomes increasingly paranoid and repressive as years pass. While Dikembe has no desire to harm his father he must eventually decide just how far he is willing to go to end the reign of terror that grips his home.

I give the book 7.5 out of 10. While the book does a very good job of introducing its new characters, there were a few areas I found lacking. First, I wish the author had either covered one of the nearly three dozen major battles occurring at the same time as the final battle of the original movie thoroughly or shown more of one the post movie battles that took place outside the Congo in detail. And two significant characters from the movie die over the course of the book but not only do you not actually see the deaths--though you do see the early stages of one of the incidents--you don’t get to see their aftermaths. Instead the characters are alive at the end of one chapter, time skips forward months or years between chapters, and then their deaths get mentioned almost in passing. Also given how one of the two died I can’t help but suspect that the author was trying to slip an unneeded, in my opinion, life lesson to the readers. 

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