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Wasteland of Flint

by Thomas Harlan

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243590,858 (3.81)6
Acclaimed as one of SF's most exciting new talents, Thomas Harlan took readers by storm with his remarkable Oath of Empire series, a thrilling blend of alternate history, high fantasy, and military adventure. The books in the series, includingThe Shadow of Ararat, The Gate of Fire, The Storm of Heaven,andThe Dark Lord, not only earned Harlan rave reviews but gained him two nominations for Best New Writer of the Year. Now Thomas Harlan draws upon his extensive knowledge of history, politics, strategy and tactics to create a brilliant new science fiction epic set in an alternate future in which the Aztec Empire rules the earth and an interstellar empire. Led by the ambitions of the powerful, world-girdling Empire of the Méxica, the human race has spread out among the stars, only to discover a perilous universe once ruled by vast interstellar civilizations that suddenly vanished, leaving behind their mysterious artifacts. Dr. Gretchen Andersson, a xeno-archeologist and second-class citizen of the empire, has made a career of searching for those First Sun artifacts. She has suddenly been recalled by her employer and sent to discover the fate of a missing survey team. To her consternation, she discovers that her team is to travel on an imperial warship, under a Japanese commander, instead of using a Company vessel. Worse, an Aztec aristocrat, Green Hummingbird--an imperial judge who is also a brujo, or sorcerer--is in command of the rescue mission. Clearly, there is more to this assignment than rescuing a team of company scientists from a dead world. In the company of Green Hummingbird, Gretchen will discover that there is far more to Ephesus III than meets the eye. For the vast, rocky wasteland of the seemingly dead planet hides a secret life, and may hold treasures far too deadly for the empire to ever allow her to discover.… (more)
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Showing 5 of 5
I loved this book! I thought it was excellent, especially for the first book in a trilogy. It is unique, has a nice historical fiction element to it, has elements to it that border on military sci fi, hard science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the surreal. I thought Harlan tied it together pretty well.

In this book, the Aztecs won North American dominance, if not over most of the world many years ago. Now, however, most of the world is ruled by Méxica from the capital of Tenochtitlan, aided by the Japanese, who supply their military. Their only real economic and military human competion is from the Swede-Russian alliance.

Millions of years ago, the First Sun People dominated the galaxy with their technology, living and moving from planet to planet. Some of their leftover technology is rarely but occasionally found on various planets and it’s worth a fortune.

In the book, xenoarcheologist Dr. Gretchen Anderssen has been employed by an unnamed company to go to Ephesus III to find a previous expedition and to obtain as many valuable archeological items that she can, to make the trip (s) worthwhile. At the same time, Imperial cruiser, the Henry R. Cornuelle, is sent to the same location captained by Captain Hadeishi Mitsuharu of the Imperial Méxica Navy. He is carrying a secretive Imperial “judge” with unlimited powers, whose name is Huitzilozoctic, or Green Hummingbird. The name not only means “judge,” but it also means “sorcerer.” It sometimes seems like his power cannot be matched.

Anderssen and her team go to down to the planet’s surface to find important relics they believe to be First Sun relics. These could be dangerous and certainly are powerful. Green Hummingbird views these as hugely dangerous and declares the planet and the space around it off limits to any and every one. Mitsuharu is sent after a gigantic freighter that is now is a huge asteroid field to fire upon it, if necessary, board it, and issue Hummingbird’s commands. Meanwhile, Hummingbird makes his way to the planet. Anderssen is obsessed with finding these objects, to the point of ignoring her crew and going all over the planet tracing the final steps of a scientist who had been impacted by these artifacts and gone insane and disappeared. Hummingbird watches, but follows from a distance. Eventually, he intrudes upon her and they end up traveling together in increasingly dangerous places and situations. Hummingbird believes it’s necessary to bring balance to the planet and the things on the planet to ward off First Sun evil. Gretchen doesn’t understand him, but he tries to teach her. As they go into caves and are attacked by spirits and are followed by relentless shadows, and possible aliens, she starts to wonder and he then tells her she can’t see the real world, she doesn’t know. Her science is no good, which ticks her off. A battle between mysticism and rationalism results. While judges aren’t psychics, they exist to protect the species at ANY cost, including the extermination of entire worlds, and they have reached the absolute best of human perceptual training, among other things. They can’t always necessarily foretell the future, but it seems they see strains of future possibilities. They can bring balance to dark forces, right evil things, manipulate people and things to do their bidding, as long as it meets their final goals.

Hummingbird, at some point, asks Anderssen if she would like to see, actually SEE, to learn, to be exposed to things she’s never dreamt of, and in a moment of either weakness, bravery, or power seeking, she agrees, and as time is of the essence and he can’t take the time to properly train her, he gives her an intense drug that virtually destroys her existence. She lies in a coma-like trance for hours, going through dreams, fantasies, pain, experiences, etc., and wakes many hours later, and she SEES. It’s like living in another dimension. She can see every fiber on every blade of grass in 3D, color illuminated. She can see Hummingbird as he really is, birds, trees, ants, like she’s never seen them before, and she understands things like she’s never been able to understand them before. She understands the universe as inherently hostile and now knows the judges’ need to protect humanity. She’s cautiously excited and repelled at the same time. However, the evil aliens are after them and they must continue to their flight to the planet’s base camp to await extraction.

While waiting, she is given another drug, which goes even further. There, however, for the third, I believe, time, she sees a First Sun alien who appears before her in her own image, talking to her while she tries to escape. Hummingbird has never been with her when she has encountered this alien.

I won’t say what happens at the end, but it wasn’t entirely what I expected and I’ve read that some people are a little disappointed by it. I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed. It was just unexpected. It’s an exciting, action packed, intense, horror-tinged, mind fuck with more to come in future books. If Book Two is as good as this first one is, I’ll be very happy. Five stars. Definitely recommended. ( )
  scottcholstad | Jun 23, 2016 |
Good world-building and an inviting starting point: alternative-history, future. Good balance of believable characterizations and well-paced plot. Could my apathy about the cat-woman be due to cat overload from teh interwebs? ( )
  woofrock | Mar 15, 2014 |
Wow. Its not often I found a book that follows the science fiction tropes (Alien Archeology, Navy in Space, etc) that takes them, and than flips them on the side. The world building is just amazing. The alternate history, where the Aztec empire conquered the world, instead of Europe - is quite amazing. I also like the fact that I always felt half a step from the culture - it all felt familiar, but took a turn that is not Western.

Now, the characters. Equal amount of time was spent in putting them together - they felt real, they felt human, and most of all, they weren't caricatures. As such, they didn't follow the same paths as is typical in stories like this - they follow orders, but also think for themselves. They don't go off on their own. Its nice to see a story where people act like a group.

The Aztec Priest and his relationship with Gretchen is quite interesting - at first, it builds from mutual disrespect to something close to a student/teacher relationship. Very nicely done, and quite interesting. I also like Hummingbirds take on the universe - it was quite amazing and totally unexpected.

My only complaint, is the species that Magdalena is from - She is too much like a cat - I like her, she is interesting, but she should be more than a cat.

I will admit - this book was slow going for me. A lot of information, not a lot of back story, you have to pay attention to follow it. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Jun 22, 2013 |
ZB13
  mcolpitts | Aug 15, 2009 |
SuperScience, Alien Archeology, Military Tech & Tactics and ancient alien legacies billions of years old. All wrapped in a world conquered and controlled by Aztec Civilization. You follow the exploits and frustrations of a white xenoarcheologist as she attempts to solve a billion year mystery under the paranoid powers of the Mexica Secret Police. ( )
  Caragen87 | Dec 29, 2008 |
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Without the inspiration of James H. Schmitz, H. Beam Piper,
and Leigh Brackett, there would be no book.
Without the excellent advice of Russ Galen,
it wouldn't be nearly as interesting.
Thank You!
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Acclaimed as one of SF's most exciting new talents, Thomas Harlan took readers by storm with his remarkable Oath of Empire series, a thrilling blend of alternate history, high fantasy, and military adventure. The books in the series, includingThe Shadow of Ararat, The Gate of Fire, The Storm of Heaven,andThe Dark Lord, not only earned Harlan rave reviews but gained him two nominations for Best New Writer of the Year. Now Thomas Harlan draws upon his extensive knowledge of history, politics, strategy and tactics to create a brilliant new science fiction epic set in an alternate future in which the Aztec Empire rules the earth and an interstellar empire. Led by the ambitions of the powerful, world-girdling Empire of the Méxica, the human race has spread out among the stars, only to discover a perilous universe once ruled by vast interstellar civilizations that suddenly vanished, leaving behind their mysterious artifacts. Dr. Gretchen Andersson, a xeno-archeologist and second-class citizen of the empire, has made a career of searching for those First Sun artifacts. She has suddenly been recalled by her employer and sent to discover the fate of a missing survey team. To her consternation, she discovers that her team is to travel on an imperial warship, under a Japanese commander, instead of using a Company vessel. Worse, an Aztec aristocrat, Green Hummingbird--an imperial judge who is also a brujo, or sorcerer--is in command of the rescue mission. Clearly, there is more to this assignment than rescuing a team of company scientists from a dead world. In the company of Green Hummingbird, Gretchen will discover that there is far more to Ephesus III than meets the eye. For the vast, rocky wasteland of the seemingly dead planet hides a secret life, and may hold treasures far too deadly for the empire to ever allow her to discover.

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