Billed as the first book in a new science fiction series called Sons of Neptune, Earthweeds by Rod Little (June, 2017) reads more like a fantasy adventure than a hard science fiction tale. It is a fun, fast paced story centered around an alien invasion with apocalyptic results in which readers are thrown into a crazy galactic mystery filled with violence and mayhem.
High schooler Sam and his older college student brother Shane are on a camping trip when they discover the body of a man who had committed suicide, a gun still in one had with a note in the other that read, “I saved another bullet in my pocket for you.” The mystery deepens as the two arrive back home to discover humanity no longer exists with the roads now empty and towns desolate. As the brothers progressively bump into the few remaining survivors along the way, they learn that the world will never be the same again.
Aside from the warring factions that have evolved in the short time of the change, the true danger comes from the sudden infestation of monstrous lizard-like creatures. Seemingly arisen from the cocooned transformation that had once been the human populace, the end of the world just got a whole lot scarier.
Granted, this synopsis has many of the necessary ingredients for a compelling science fiction saga, but when it comes to character development and structure, the story leans more towards fantasy. Our co-hero Sam has a magical ability to harness electrical energy. From tiny fingertip sparks to launching fireballs and producing bullet stopping energy fields, the young character struggles with his growing powers as well as the mystery surrounding his dark past.
Even more fantastic is a character named Bohai Chen, a plane crash survivor who travels with a cougar companion named Zeus. Not in the verbal manor of Hugh Lofting’s popular Doctor Dolittle character, Bohai has the ability to communicate with animals through a form of telepathy. This convenient talent is handy in a world where humanity is fighting extinction due to the growing strength of members of the animal kingdom.
It should be pointed out that there is a handful of editorial elements that some readers may find distracting to the overall body of work. The one that stood out the most takes place when the author assumes the role of an unreliable narrator even though the story is presented in third person. Leaving the reader in the dark at the end of a climactic scene or chapter just as the characters clearly witness something astonishing may be dramatic, reminiscent of the old cinematic serial cliffhangers, but it does cheat the reader and should be avoided in the literary form when possible. This is by no means a deal breaker to enjoy this book, but noticeable nonetheless.
In all, Earthweeds is a fun read that moves quickly and rarely takes a breather. Rod Little has created a complex end-of-the-world scenario for fans of both fantasy and science fiction. Keep an eye for the next installments of the Sons of Neptune series, Revenge of the Spiders and The Last Starbase. The end of the world is about to get crazy.