Survive!: First Alien Contact
by Charles P. Graham

"'We too had a time when violence was considered amusing, but fortunately, we have outgrown it.'"

After surviving their ordeal stranded on the planet Tau Ceti g, the seven survivors of the United Earth Space Force ship Copernicus have made their way home, anticipating some much-needed leave. Commander Caitlyn Carver and xenobiologist Chris Elliott are looking forward to spending their leave together despite the pending complications that their differing ranks will cause in their relationship. Caitlyn is on the shortlist to lead the UESF’s latest ship, Orion, which is full of the latest technology and also the latest protocol—with the UESF changing its rules to allow for civilians to work and live on board as family members to the enlisted crew. Admiral Davies assigns the Orion to Caitlyn, giving both her and Chris promotions so that they can be married and serve as an example for these new rules, finding a way for people to survive and live together in the farthest reaches of space.

Meanwhile, Valory Jeanne is an unknown eighth survivor of the Copernicus disaster, stranded alone on the derelict craft and struggling every day to survive. After months of planning and careful action, she manages to get the undamaged parts of the ship online on her own, but she learns that she is on borrowed time, as the Copernicus is drifting into Tau Ceti g’s atmosphere and will be pulled down soon. Using her resourceful mind, Valory is able to send out a distress signal from the planet for one last hope of returning home. The Orion hears her call, but so do other alien craft. Caitlyn and the UESF now have to cope both with not being alone in the universe and Valory’s life hanging in the balance.

Many science fiction stories have been written about overcoming the moment of first alien contact and how jarring such a discovery would likely be for human beings. What differentiates this story from the others is its character-driven military point of view. Despite dealing with the bureaucracy and rigid structure of a military setting, the author focuses on the human side of things and how individual people have to make tough, compassionate decisions. Added to that is the element of survival, which carries over from the first book with Valory’s tale. Caught in the middle between her need to survive and her actions which lead to first contact, she serves as a catalyst and a bridge between the familiar characters and the literally alien elements of this story.

Science fiction has to present its various elements in balance, whether it be its characters, foreign worlds, militarism, politics, or scientific details. A good science fiction author knows how to rein in some of these elements to provide that balance, giving readers enough without losing them in arduous description. Graham pulls that feat off in this book, keeping things moving along while still not leaving the audience in the dark. The end result is a fantastic tale that keeps readers excited and allows them to invest intellectually in the universe the author has created and emotionally with the characters who reside within. This book stays true to its genre and may not be different enough to bring in readers who don’t already like this type of book, but for those who are always looking for the next great sci-fi story, this series could be just what they’re looking for.

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