by Scott Mari
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
An exhilarating tech-forward tale of humanity overcoming alien invaders!
Calliope was just a child when the aliens invaded Earth, killing her parents and leaving her on her own to survive in the chaos and the breakdown of society in the aftermath. When she was eventually pulled in to the rebuilding safety after their departure, cleaned up and sent to school, an almost feral loner, she had an insatiable need to learn all she could to defeat the aliens if, and when, they returned.
A genius with at least three degrees under her belt, Calliope makes her way to the old Lunar Colony on the moon, now a remote science station devoted to advancing humanity’s defenses against future alien attack. Her optimism for what she can accomplish there is immediately challenged when she finds the station’s scientific culture laden with suspicion and ruthless dog-eat-dog ambition. The station’s big dog is Mattias, an arrogant and incompetent sycophant of the military representative, Admiral Sinchan, who hasn’t produced a single innovation to further operations in months, immediately sees Calliope as competition to crush and destroy.
Calliope’s determination is unwavering and she establishes her own working lab away from Mattias’ evil intentions, prying eyes, and blatant appropriation of her designs as his own. And once settled, she pulls out all the stops to design an attack spacecraft that is quick, lithe, nimble, and with innovative lasers for weapons while Mattias focuses on encumbering all available resources to produce the largest ship he can utilizing missile weaponry. Trading technology and creating partnerships with the other scientists and engineers sidelined by Mattias’ selfish manipulations, Calliope begins to come out of her lonely shell exercising social skills she’d forgotten she ever had, discovering she has deeper feelings for one man in particular.
While advancing her plans for capturing mineral-rich asteroids from the area around Jupiter, Calliope finds that the aliens are working on their own plans right there in the same asteroid belt. This alarming discovery puts everyone’s activities into overdrive as they desperately work to be ready for their imminent arrival. This time the humans want to surprise the aliens and catch them off-guard by attacking first. Unfortunately, they are betting on Mattias’ larger ships not realizing they are too big, too slow, too cumbersome, and inadequately armed with the same missile technology that failed against the aliens when they attacked Earth.
CALLIOPE is an exciting story of an orphaned underdog that pulls herself up by her bootstraps and powers through to success with sheer determination and strength of character. She’s naturally a loner, and although she starts out as an awkward and socially-stunted young woman, she eventually finds her center when she comes in contact with some decent coworkers that believe in her and her abilities.
She still has setbacks, though; the story has a couple of villains that see to that. Mattias, the lead scientist on the station, is arrogant, self-satisfied, and downright mean. I really wanted her to beat him as his own game.
The science station faces hardships and difficult problems throughout the story, and Calliope and the good people around her work to overcome them while burdened with the red tape and interference from above. But, the story is Calliope’s, and you can’t help but root for her as she meets each challenge head-on and, most of the time, alone. I liked that the character kept going and going – head down and nose to the grindstone. Something we can all relate to on some level: I know I did.
The story is heavily-laced with technical thinking, problem-solving, and activity, making this a great, hardcore SciFi tale. The author’s settings on the moon and asteroids were descriptive, had great variety, and I could easily visualize Calliope’s surroundings. However, my favorite part of the story is Calliope’s journey from her spacecraft to her asteroid command center and her self-talk through the aloneness, the fear, the danger, and the physical stresses. It was absolutely riveting!
And what kind of story would it be without some awesome space battles as well? These were exciting and desperate, very well written, and very fast-paced. I suddenly realized I was holding my breath as I read!
I recommend this book to readers that would like a tech-heavy SciFi tale with evil first-contacts and a strong female protagonist with an indomitable spirit.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.
See my original review on Reedsy Discovery!