When humans eventually go off and settle on new worlds, it’s hard enough to imagine what life might be like for the first few colonists. But what about generations later? When the original settlers have died and it’s their children, and their children’s children, who are left to live on this potentially wild frontier? This is the basis of Aldebaran, an Earth-like world colonised by humans 100 years previously, but which has been unable to contact Earth ever since.
Abandoned and alone, the colonists clearly knuckled down and got on with the business of surviving. While life is simple but comfortable for most villages and towns, which rely on relatively primitive hunting and agriculture to survive, the colonists seem happy with their lot. Unfortunately, bubbling under the surface of this rural idyll is the reality of the situation: a tyrannical police-state government that appears to be keeping all the Earth technology to themselves and instantly quashing all resistance.
Suddenly, all manner of strange things start to happen. The sea soldifies, strange structures are instantaneously created and then destroyed above the surface, and strange deep-sea creatures start appearing in the shallows, as if fleeing something worse than certain death. A mysterious stranger arrives announcing that it’s the work of an enormous, mysterious sea creature he’s been studying. Then a village is almost entirely consumed by icky digestive juices, and its handful of surviving teenagers embark on a journey to a better life in the planet’s captial. They’re thwarted by getting involved with the stranger and his associates, and an intruiging adventure follows.
Aldebaran juxtaposes the mundane with the fantastic, with the characters playing down the strangeness, leaving the reader agog at what these people pass off as normal for Aldebaran. Their lives aren’t that different to ours, though they’re perhaps a little more attuned to nature than the average city dweller, and the flora of Aldebaran could easily be that of Earth. But the creatures, particularly those that inhabit the sea, are strange, eerie, alien and dangerous.
While LEO’s characters can sometimes look a little stiff, the breadth of his imagination in creating and drawing this world is breathtaking. The storytelling is measured and slow to show its hand, but this slow pace, littered as it is with moments of jaw-dropping strangeness, makes for a fantastic journey into the unknown.
This is a solid piece of speculative science fiction, crossing heavily over into thriller – a page-turner that will certainly leave you wanting more. There are far too many questions asked and unanswered in this first volume for the series to be left alone – let’s hope volume two can maintain the drama.
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