At a certain point, I realized I had not only not finished Letter 44, but I was about halfway through the story. Why didn’t I finish it? OK, there is a subplot that has aged in unexpected ways for a reader in 2021, but it was still a top-notch sci-fi story. Why not finish it?
I have already more or less decided to finish the series in 2022, but in the meantime, I did knock out the fourth of the six trades, this one subtitled Saviors.
To recap: President Stephen Blades, basically an Obama stand-in, learned in the traditional letter from his predecessor Francis T. Carroll that aliens were real and doing…something out near Jupiter. Carroll had sent out a space ship to investigate, the Clarke, made up of a mix of soldiers and scientists. Contact was made, but the alien Builders don’t speak in a language the humans can quite understand, and Blades’s decision to let the public know that aliens were real led to a global war, one secretly orchestrated by Carroll and some allies both foreign and domestic.
A Republican president actively undermining a Democratic successor with a core group of loyal supporters is something that hasn’t aged well in 2021.
Regardless, Carroll proved a bit more ruthless and may have made things worse if not for one thing: one of the Clarke crew returned in an asteroid type ship and asked to see Blades in the most public way possible.
Now, in this trade, things slow down a bit. I mean, going from global war to exposition will do that. The Clarke crew find themselves banished from the Builder’s weapon-ship the Chandelier, save Astra, the toddler that was born on the journey and was somewhat integrated into the Builders’ way of things. That doesn’t sit well with Astra’s mother, but it does lead to an interesting development. The Builders do, more or less, explain what they’re doing. They’re not going to destroy the human race. Something else is. They show up ahead of this thing, whatever it is, that they feel responsible for, build a Chandelier, fire it, and then move on. Each blast weakens the End, whatever it is, but can’t stop it. They just keep doing this.
That factor plays heavily into much of what happens in this trade, as Blades is presented with a hard decision, Carroll learns of this and makes moves of his own, and the Clarke crew decides to do something on their own.
Charles Soule does know how to make for an interesting political thriller and a sci-fi tale, but this trade is a small step down from the previous one. Major Drumm, the Clarke crewman who returned to Earth, tells the story of how the crew more or less got together, and it takes a bit too long in the grand scheme of things, and the framing device makes it seem a bit unnecessary. Did Soule need to tell the reader all of this? I don’t know, but I would have preferred he not stretch Drumm’s story out over the entire trade. Beyond that, a new endgame may be coming, and it does seem as if humanity may or may not make it at all at this rate.
In other words, I am looking forward to finishing this series in the coming year.
8 out of 10 desert escapes.