At twenty-five, General Jason Wander has fought and won man’s only alien conflict. Now, after long years in space, he’s coming home … but to what? Earth’s desperate nations, impoverished by war damage and military spending, are slashing defence budgets. There’s just one problem with this new worldwide policy: the first alien invasion was merely Plan A.
Suddenly, the real assault begins: Earth is attached by a vast armada of city-sized warships. To block their invasion, mankind has only one surviving craft and a single guerrilla strike force: a suicide squad led by Jason Wander.
After I read Orphanage (review) at the end of last year I was eager to see where the series went. I knew there were another four available and I was interested to see just how the series would progress from the promising beginnings. What Orphan’s Destiny does is take the series in a different direction, although not totally unexpected it is a pleasant surprise.
Orphan’s Destiny sticks with the established first person narrative from the point of view of Jason Wander, now General after the battle of Ganymede, as the survivors of the battle await rescue and return to Earth. We also have the same characters from Orphanage along for the ride – Howard the techy, Munchkin his friend and pilot as well as new mother of the first baby born off Earth and Brumby, his fellow soldier. We are also introduced to Ruth, advisor to Jason, who is tasked with making him the media friendly returning war hero. All of these characters have their own voices, but it is Jason’s that makes the story so interesting and compelling and the main reason I found Orphan’s Destiny so enjoyable.
Jason is your typical grunt on the ground. He’s made mistakes in the past and due to his encounters with the slugs he has a unique perspective on the situation. Being promoted to General through the death of others is not the way he wants to progress though, but with Earth looking towards a hero that saved the planet he’s kept as one anyway. It’s during the return to Earth and the subsequent months there that we see exactly what impact the war on Ganymede has had on the planet Earth. Budgets are low and governments are looking to save wherever they can. This all translates into a pretty miserable place for the majority of the population, and with the slugs defeated humanity believe they can move forward.
It’s during these early looks at life on Earth that I found myself drawn even more into the character of Jason Wander and the world he inhabits. Truthfully I was expecting to see more action than we had, but this different approach raised my enjoyment of the story. Buettner is not afraid to give us something a little different, something that doesn’t necessarily tie in immediately with the expectations a military sf series like this usually demands. It all works so well and allows us to realise that there are consequences to the actions taken in the first story.
However, once the slugs turn up again in force humanity realise just how their recent decisions may have damaged them in the overall survival stakes. All of this i put across extremely well and although I was glad to see the action build up, I was also pleased that it didn’t come at the cost of continued character and setting development. The action is just as good as the first book, although I will freely admit that the odds overcome this time round were starting to verge on the unbelievable. I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say that Buettner has lay down some very interesting concepts here that do help in partly lifting the ending into more realistic territory.
All in all Orphan’s Destiny was a good sequel and a worthy continuation of the story. One thing I don’t like is repetitiveness, and although there is little doubt that we’ll see more of the same in the future volumes, there is plenty here to give a damned good indication that it will be worth coming back to.