The first book in an SF duology but can be read as a stand-alone. Part of the Women in Scifi storybundle I bought last year.
Publication year: 2004
Format: ebook, epub
Page count: 317
The Earth is crumbling under wars and environmental damage. Some people want to leave it. The Mira Corporation has built a ship which will take humans to an alien planet which should be able to sustain human life. Various groups have bought their way into the ship: a group of international scientists, a group of people who want to return to nature and are calling themselves Cheyenne (although they’re not Native Americans), a group of New Quakers who can’t stand the violence on Earth, a group of Chinese, a family of deposed Saudi royalty, and others. About 6 000 people. Jake Holman is the chairman of Mira Corporation and he’s going, too. The trip is one-way and most of the humans will be sleeping through it. While only seven years pass for the passengers, over seventy years pass on Earth before the ship reaches the planet dubbed Greentrees.
Only long range probes have inspected the planet, but the area where the humans will be going should be temperate. But when they get to the planet, a surprise is waiting for them: a small group of aliens. Humans have never met aliens anywhere so they’re very excited. However, the aliens live in small huts and don’t respond to the humans at all. But then, the humans find another group of seemingly the same alien species. But they attack humans. The surprises don’t stop there, either.
The story is told through the eyes of three people: Jake Holman, the CEO who is in charge of the expedition, Gail Culter, Jake’s second in command, and Dr. William Shipley, a medical doctor and the leader of the pacifist Quakers. All of them have their own problems. Jake is haunted by a dark secret in his past. He used to be a lawyer and is an excellent manipulator. Gail was born into a family of scientists but realized early that she had no interest in science. Instead, she’s an administrator and a no-nonsense type. She’s also a lesbian and her lover died before this trip. Shipley’s adult daughter hates him but has come along for the journey. Shipley is very worried about her but doesn’t know how to talk to her. Unfortunately, none of them were very appealing to me. They also don’t get much character development.
The best part of the book were the aliens. They were very interesting and different from usual aliens.
The various groups get along pretty well, mostly because they know that they have to rely on each other and no other help is coming. However, there are some conflicts, too, but they’re on the level of individuals instead of communities. I found this a bit strange at time, considering how different the various groups are.
The crew of the ship were Swiss mercenaries and they’re expected to act as police on the planet. They’re military and keep themselves away from the others. In fact, all of the characters are really only interested in their own specialty: Gail would even stop listening to other people when they talked about science stuff and she isn’t even interested in the aliens, the team’s main biologist is only interested in biological stuff, and physicist is only interested in ships etc.
The book has some science it in, mostly around space ship drives, but not too much. When the scientists start talking science the POV character either leaves or stops listening. This felt quite strange to me, especially when the survival of the person in question depended on the science but is a way to cut down science aspects for the reader.
This was a bit of mixed bag for me. I enjoyed a lot the exploration and aliens but there were some elements I didn’t like as much and none of the characters really appealed to me.
Crossfire doesn’t end in a cliffhanger. In fact, it can be read as a stand-alone but some things are left open.