The Farthest City - Daniel P Swenson

So this takes place in some distant future Earth -- the history (how accurate or not) as humanity understands it is parceled out to us in tiny bits, I could fill you in, but Swenson had some sort of plan in the way he throws crumbs. Some sort of Insectoid alien race is waging war with humans while taking over the planet. The war has been going for years and humans are slowly losing. This book traces two last-ditch efforts to get help from a Robotic race with ties to humanity in the days following World War 3 (or one of the wars after that).


Kellen is an artist (because even when the world is ending, we want graphic designers?), which turns out to be part of a Mythological Quartet to bring the robots ("Chines") to Earth's aid. With a Digger, Singer and Lighter, they can bring the Chines back to help. Exactly how, I don't know -- I'm not sure they do either, but they seem to have a better idea. They do meet with some sort of success -- but it's not at all how they expected, and at great cost.


Sergeant Sheemi Tanamal, is grieving her brother (killed in battle) and gets volunteered for an interstellar gamble by her father, a general. The military has a few ships capable (they hope) of interstellar flight, and they've got a kooky idea or two about how to find the Chines and ask for help. To say that Sheemi is unfit for this kind of mission is an understatement, but somehow she not only survives (when many others don't), she somehow flourishes.


The main problems with this book are in execution: the way Swenson reveals information is so scattered, so like Scrooge giving to the poor, he withholds when he should explain. Mostly, I think he opts for complicated when he should aim for complex -- it may seem like a fine distinction, but it's a vital one. Yes, his dialogue is wanting, his characters are flat and unrelatable (but don't have to be) -- but it's the writing that fails here, not his imagination.


Swenson tried, clearly tried to do something here -- and he almost succeeded. But the way he failed just tarnished the good he did. This ends up being a dissatisfying mess.

<i><b>Disclaimer:</b> I received this book from the author in exchange for this post -- probably not his favorite move this year.</i>