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C.J. Hall
Aeturnum: Evolving Elizah Book 2
C.J. Hall, author
The Green Grow 3 is hurtling through space, catapulted out of Earth’s orbit after a propulsion drive malfunction. Liz’s brother, Jackson, says he knows how to get the ship back to Earth, but can she trust him? Not only is he plotting against the man she loves, but he refuses to give them the information they need until the council meets his strange demands. He wants them to travel light years away to a distant planet—faster than any human has ever traveled—just to turn around. Why? Liz thinks she has time to discover what Jackson is hiding. But then he mysteriously—perhaps even miraculously—appears on the ship one morning. He says he’s discovered how to fold the space-time continuum, but why did he come? What does he really want, and what did he unleash when he opened the wormhole that brought him to the ship? Every choice has consequences. Can Liz survive the choices her brother made?
Pairing science-fiction thrills with apocalyptic, character-driven suspense, Hall’s sequel (after Evolving Elizah: Initiatum) takes flight in media res, in 2059, on the Green Grow 3, a farm ship originally created to feed the survivors of disasters on Earth but now, after the New Generation terrorist attacks in the first book, is “catapulting into deep space,” billions of miles from home. Its current destination: a “turnaround point” that will offer the Green Grow—and its inhabitants, including children—opportunity to return to their ash-choked terrestrial home. Shaken by loss, divided by secrets, and queasy from the G forces of interstellar travel, the survivors must make hard choices about who to trust, especially once Liz, the hero who saved the day in the first book, begins hearing in her mind a mysterious presence that makes declarations like “I am divinely created from the great black womb of nothing!”

Hall proves adept at action, tension, and suggestion, offering enticing alien mysteries that suggest there may something more terrifying in the cosmos than human betrayal and terrorism. Still, much of this follow-up’s power comes from the interpersonal, as Liz must choose whether to trust her brother, the apparently power-mad Jackson, New Generation leader who insists that he knows how to save them all—but only if the Green Grow’s council accepts his curious orders.

The story’s significant suspense comes from the terror of uncertainty, especially who (or what) to trust when the stakes could not be higher. The Green Grow proves a pressure cooker as Hall’s people scheme and spy. Liz proves a memorable hero, but wily, unpredictable Jackson continually steals the show, getting under his (apparent) adversaries’ skin, charming children and the mother of Liz’s lover, urging the ship toward the distant planet Omega for reasons only he knows—and toiling on a mysterious machine. The suspense (and the answers) prove so engaging that that may appeal even to readers outside the science fiction fold.

Takeaway: This tense S.F. thriller will appeal to readers who relish character-driven suspense and intergalactic mysteries.

Great for fans of: Elizabeth Bear’s Dust, Emma Newman.

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