A human colony settles on a distant planet, a colony formed by Jake Holman– a man trying to escape a dark past. But as this diverse group of thousands comes to terms with their new lives on a new world, they make a startling discovery: primitive humanoid aliens. There are only a few isolated villages, and the evidence seems to indicate they aren’t native to the planet–despite the aliens living in thatched huts and possessing only primitive tools.
When a handful of human colonists finally learn the truth, they will face the toughest decision of their lives, a decision that could determine not just the fate of their new home, but the fate of all humanity.
I really liked Crossfire. The characters felt believable*, and their personal situations were well tied into the plot. For example, the relationship between father and daughter, or between a man and his criminal past, or the romantic relationship between two characters were all relationships that impacted the plot a great deal. And these are the types of universal-ish situations that we either have been in, probably will be in, or can imagine ourselves being in, and that fact makes the tension regarding how the characters will act in a given situation greater (Will they do it? Won’t they?), and the resolution of their action (and the resulting complications/simplifications of the situation) more satisfying.
*One drawback of this approach was that two of the characters felt hollow, literally just an archetype. But this was only two of a large cast, and it became glaringly obvious only in the latter third of the book, though, so I was safely hooked and in no danger of putting the book down by then.
The scenes are quite discrete in place and time, with gaps of years to months between chapters. At first I found the skips and gaps in time and events to be jarring, but I quickly became used to it, and actually think it provides a stronger sense of plot and theme than if the story were told continuously. I think I settled most into the style around when the larger themes relating to the eponymous “Crossfire” began surfacing.
Something I found quite good was how each character had some sort of philosophical argument underlying their thoughts regarding the current situation, from settlement of the planet and creation of a new society to interaction with the natives, how first contact should be handled, perspectives on when and how wars should be waged corresponding to the stakes, etc.
While I read Crossfire on a Kindle, the book was originally published in 2004 by Tor Science Fiction.
Cover Art Review Mandatory Kindle Notice: Big downside of a Kindle: the cover art is black/white and you rarely see it. Also: doesn’t provide copy of a back cover for me.
Cover Art Review: I… guess that thing in the back is a starship? And that is not entirely how I pictured the natives…