The next book I’m reviewing is Rise of the Europan, a collaborative science fiction work led by Joel Stottlemire. The book’s central premise is that in a future where humans have established colonies on other worlds in the solar system and elsewhere in the galaxy, settlers on Europa, the ice moon of Jupiter, have awakened a god-like entity (Genabyel) who begins a campaign of destruction against humanity. The book contains interrelated stories by six different authors chronicling the events of this war, on different worlds and from the perspectives of different people and from Genabyel himself.
Using multiple authors to tell various parts of one story is an ambitious project, and I laud these authors for taking it on. The project brings to mind the Star Wars expanded universe novels (the Thrawn trilogy, the New Jedi Order series, etc.) which I consumed and loved as a teenager. It gives a sense of size and scale to the narrative, even when the characters of the different stories don’t interact with one another. The continuity and connectivity of it, the fact that in spite of the distance between stories it maintains cohesion, is admirable.
Of course, the fact that the stories uses different viewpoints in different locations means that the novel-length book does not follow a consistent set of characters, but instead several characters with short character arcs. The only character who appears in each of the stories is Genabyel himself, about whose personality and attributes we learn more and more as the book progresses. Genabyel has some Lovecraftian attributes about him. He comes from a home deep beneath a strange ocean, he claims to have travelled through other dimensions and made contact with various divine beings, and he looks on humans in the same way that a human might look on cockroaches: troublesome creatures to be crushed. He thinks of destroying humans as a divine mission, and uses language reminiscent of the Bible in his musings about them. I liked Genabyel as a character; at first I thought he might be just a Cthulhu knock-off, but as the story progressed I appreciated how well-developed he was. The human characters that appeared throughout the stories were, as far as I recall, adequately developed as well. There are soldiers, politicians, scientists, and generally diverse cast all reacting to the crisis of the Europan in various ways, some heroic and some cowardly. We don’t get to spend a lot of time with these characters, but the time we get is enjoyable.
The war against the Europan, however, is completely hopeless. He is undefeatable, and this kid of has the effect of making the genre here seem a variant of apocalyptic fiction. It’s about the human characters reacting to the end of their world, that is to say the end of their world-spanning human civilization. The sequences of destruction, happening in their various ways and various places, are very detailed, and generally I liked the way the book was written. There was one significant problem, a surprising one given the otherwise high quality of the book. There were tons of typos, tons of misused apostrophes and spelling errors and use of incorrect words. The problem was throughout the book, not just in the stories of one or two of the authors. A bit more proofreading would have easily solved the problem.