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Jacob Lightman
A Buzz Volume 1
In an ancient alternate history, four distinct regions of South America have merged to form one technologically advanced nation called The Land. Twenty-one-year-old Commander Jaway Barbour leads his young crew on military missions against the final remaining holdouts against the empire—the exploited tribes of the Wild Territory. When a bomb explodes, damaging their ship, it sends the crew on unexpected adventures. How will Jaway and the other youthful risk-takers navigate life and love in this dangerous, exotic world? How long can they evade the looming danger from the Wild Territory clans? And are they fighting on the right side to begin with? A Buzz, the first volume of Jacob Lightman’s epic new science fiction series, delivers thrilling adventures in The Land that could have been.
High-tech meets the Earth’s distant past in this imperial alternate-history epic, Lightman’s debut. Set in South America some 6,500 years ago, Lightman’s vivid adventure, the kickoff to a series, finds young commander Jaway Barbour of the technologically advanced continent-spanning empire known as the Land leading a military squad that, told it’s “a catalyst for peace,” faces off against the rebellious clans of what’s known as the Wild Territories. A bombing at the book’s start scrambles Jaway’s mission, though most of A Buzz focuses not on military action—or the possibility, familiar to this genre, that the seemingly utopian empire might harbor dark secrets—but instead is concerned with character, camaraderie, and team and worldbuilding, as it follows Jaway and others on a long, convivial series of bonding and training adventures in the rainforest.

A humane and empathetic writer, Lightman emphasizes the connections between his cast as they engage in what reads at times like the greatest ever wilderness spa adventure package: between cardio sessions, they down natural elixirs that purge body and mind, take candlelit river swims, wage contests and games at waterfalls and pyramids, and even feast on the delicacy of a giant spider that attacks a companion. “In The Land, it was common to share and express feelings openly in safe spaces,” Lightman writes. A Buzz is as attentive to flora and fauna as it is to characters’ emotions, and Lightman describes the Land’s technologies (among them: kleck, zornpas, wongers, fydons, organic gliders that expel compost) with clarity and verve.

All that detail and companionable low-stakes training, though, comes at the cost of narrative momentum, as the mysteries of the conflict between the Wild Territories and The Land wait to be explored in later volumes. The final pages suggest that conflict is more complex than Jaway and co. understand, and a lengthy flashback revealing the secret parentage of an imperial tyrant several centuries earlier all point to richer drama to come.

Takeaway: Fans of team- and world-building will enjoy accompanying this ancient Earth SF epic’s inviting cast through the rainforest.

Great for fans of: Alan Dean Foster’s Midworld, Thoraiya Dyer’s Crossroads of Canopy.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A-
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A

Independent Book Review

A Buzz presents a rich and vibrant rainforest setting that’s rarely featured in the sci-fi genre. Readers will love visualizing the lush plant life, towering waterfalls, and ancient civilizations bolstered by wildly advanced technology.”


“Readers looking for elaborately detailed world-building, intriguing futuristic tech, and sci-fi universes with a more upbeat tone will be quickly drawn into this creative work of speculative fiction.”