Terra Insegura (Daw Science Fiction)
Fanatics of any kind can be scary, and the United States has seen its fair share of them. Edward Willett explores fanaticism in Terra Insegura, the sequel to Marseguro. Through the eyes of a genetically modified species, readers get a glimpse of prejudice and genocide.
In a future where Earth has been taken over by the religious Body Purified, any genetically modified human being is labeled an abomination. The planet Marseguro, home of the “modded” Selkie race, has come under vicious attack by the Body. In return, the Selkies release a plague that targets humans. The Selkies have no intention of allowing it to get off-planet, but a human carrier escapes to Earth.
Now Richard Hansen — grandson of the Selkies’ creator, Victor — and a mixed human/Selkie crew race to Earth with the vaccine. They have no idea if they’re on a mission of mercy, or a fool’s errand.
Then, too, not everyone likes the idea of possibly saving people who tried to wipe them out.
Although this is the series’ second installment, the author provides enough background that new readers will understand what came before. Fanaticism aside, the conflict is pretty simple, as it involves two disparate groups that hate each other with a passion, and will do anything to eradicate the other.
Thankfully, the author shows the gamut of people, not just the extremes. Too much unthinking prejudice would get old quickly, but plenty of exceptions exist: Readers meet a Body warrior who doesn’t hate Selkies blindly, and in fact helps a couple of them. Such diversity keeps the story from devolving into a storm of anger and escalating violence.
The best science fiction challenges readers to think about volatile issues. Terra Insegura tackles the uncomfortable topic of prejudice, and explores it with energy and directness.
This review appeared in the Davis Enterprise on August 21, 2009.