Major Jake Thomas is on a roll. With the help of the Artificial Life: Intelligent Computing Environments, or ALICE, systems, he has successfully faced off with the hostile NeHaw three times. With continued support from his inner circle of female recruits, all handpicked by the ALICEs to further their own agenda, he continues to try to help Earth return to glory. As Jake works to assemble a space fleet from captured and constructed vessels to address the expanding NeHaw aggression, the terrestrial challenges at home continue to pile up. With troubles in California, Maine, and Washington State to plague Jake and his team, the threat of a two-front war looms ahead.
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This story picks up where Al:ice left off. An alien-induced apocalypse has thrust our 21st-century civilization back into the 19th. But, with the help of the Alices, Jake has re-educated about 3000 people, taking them from the horse age to the space age.They are engaged in several, varied activities such as training soldiers and space ship crews, developing new technologies, improving agriculture, increasing safety in communities, exploring the capabilities of the Alices, getting to know their new alien allies, and preparing defenses against the alien enemy. All this while fighting off marauding bands of local hooligans, rescuing enslaved civilians, and trying to protect the secrecy of their advanced situation.
The formerly subjugated alien races have allied themselves with the humans after Jake defeated the bad guy overlords, but this race of bad guys wants revenge and our destruction. However, there is treachery within their ranks! Some are out to take care of themselves and damn the genocidal goals of the rest. The stage is set for several exciting events. And the story delivers. But we have a new author here, and this series is experiencing some birthing pains.
The same narrator who read Al:ice also reads this book, and the same problems remain. He sounds too old to be voicing all these very young people, and he does not do characterizations. Well, he does some hick type accents, but there is no rhyme or reason to the accents, and there is no distinction between all the males or all the females. But you can get past that. Other than the bad voices, his reading is good.
There are far fewer grammar, syntax, and collocation errors than in the first book, but it could still use a going over by a high school writing teacher (or me). Besides the incorrect use of "whomever," some of the errors are: "the surrounding walls all around them" (twice!), "looking for both danger and evaluating the damage done," "it was similar but larger than the stasis bed he had been in," "the women had insisted in dragging him away," "he saw a visible change in the man's demeanor," and the totally incomprehensible "the top had a complete radius across the 12-inch width." And there is still a serious lack of past perfect tense which does sometimes cause confusion. The author admitted he had his books proof-read by relatives. Obviously they are not sufficiently composition-sophisticated.
The first book was plagued by juvenile sex fantasies and stupid coy conversations, yet without being explicit. This actually detracted from the engaging story, and nobody enjoyed it. In this book, the author has dialed way back in terms of the kittenish comments Jake's harem makes. He has also severely reduced the amount of discussion of the girls' bodies. He did leave in one which was still an eye roller, and the girls are still often scantily clad and clingy. All this reduction is a great improvement on the quality of the story, but the only real personalities in the book are Jake and Alice. The elimination of the fantasy stuff makes the girls seem more intelligent and capable in their careers than they did in the first book, although they all are still 2-dimentional, insipid characters.
NEVERTHELESS, all that aside, this is still a story that intrigues. Despite the ease with which most conflicts are handled, and despite the fact that the writing does not compare to that of other super-professional authors most of us have read, this book still draws us in. We like this story. Jake is not only forced to try to re-civilize the rest of North America, as well as reach out to Australia, and later, beyond, but he also has to deal with the interstellar bad guys and their hired mercenaries. And what: Alice 9? We want to know how this happened. The action doesn't have the detail and emotional connection that Campbell or Nuttall could provide, but it is still good. I have spent so much space snarking on the flaws here because I hate to see a good idea riddled with easily-fixed problems. I want to know what happens next; I want to see how the world redevelops; I want to know how the conflict with the aliens works out and what Jake decides to do with these new interstellar travel capabilities. I want to read the next book!
I enjoyed this book as I did the first in this series. I look forward to the next installment of the series. I hope to hear more about the future of ALICE and what becomes of the post contact human race.