Sean Williams
& Shane Dix,
Heirs of the Earth
(Ace, 2004)

Heirs of the Earth opens with a mystery, as Peter Alander finds himself in a strange bed after events he can barely recall. It's a small mystery in the web of questions that have bound the survivors of Sean Williams and Shane Dix's future-Earth cataclysms. Pursued and destroyed by aliens they don't understand, seeking hope in alliance with another race just discovered, the human variants known as engrams struggle to solve a mystery in which only the whodunit is known, and the full crime is yet to be discovered.

Showing uncommon honesty, Heirs of the Earth provides no complete, certain answers to the central mystery of the series. Who the Starfish and Spinners are, where they come from, why they behave as they do -- all are left essentially unanswered. Clues to the answers are uncovered throughout the novel, and every character ends the experience with his or her own theory. But ultimately the last echoes of humanity are left with no certainties except the outcome before their own eyes.

Williams and Dix do an amazing job of creating the impression of some vast order behind the alien actions, a large and almost comprehensible pattern. That outline, too large or maybe too small to see, lurks in the corner of the entire series and gives the uncertain ending the concrete inevitability of the inexplicable tragedies humans have always faced.

Desperate and tightly paced, Heirs of the Earth is a disturbing end to a discomforting series.

Sean Williams and Shane Dix turn away from the often comforting rules of fiction, forcing the real and sometimes intolerable uncertainty of survival on their heroes and their readers. It's not an easy book to read but it's much harder to ignore.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 14 May 2005

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