Here’s a dilemma for you:
Some folks that you really don’t like, who manipulated and conned you for years, had a fight in your back yard. Problem is, the guys they fought are nosing around, suspicious and convinced you are buddies with the first group, since after all, they were camped out in your yard and left their stuff all around your place. In fact you are pretty sure group 2 believes in shooting first, questions later. What do you do?
A. Ally with group 1, the con men, and defend against group 2.
B. Kick out group 1, dump everything they ever gave you – and hope you didn’t miss any of it – plead innocence with group 2 and hope they buy it. If they don’t believe you, well, say good-bye to human civilization.
Bad choices, eh? That’s the set up with The Terran Consensus.
Group 1, the Somerans, have been watching and manipulating us for the last 200 years. In fact they insinuated their technology into ours, their beliefs into our popular entertainment and have even taken humans away to live on their planet. Now it’s time for them to take a more active role in our governments. They bring a new ship with several humans they have trained to become leaders in our world, all behind the scenes and in secret.
Their goal is to develop us as allies in their centuries long war with the Brak-Shar and they weren’t fussy how they do it or who they maneuver into power, i.e., Hitler was one of their little projects. Several times the expedition leader observes that there is no morality or immorality associated with their human involvement since morality is exclusive to one’s own species. (Not so and I don’t think too many humans would agree with this boundary. We see morality dealing with animals.)
On the other hand, Group 2, the Brak-Shar, are not so good either. They assumed the humans in the earth space station were with the Somerans, despite no evidence, and killed as many as they could. When the Somerans tell us that the Brak-Shar are coming and that they will without a doubt disbelieve we are nothing more than trading partners, we are in deep trouble.
We take our best shot at protecting our planet and people and I’m not going to spoil by telling you what Earth chooses.
The plot is good, a little more believable and complex than many first contact stories and Washburn uses it to show us the characters. I especially liked his portrayal of the Someran leader, Keeradoth. We see him question his own people’s methods and goals and see him become more human over time, more aligned to us. Keeradoth contemplates packing up and high tailing it for home, leaving Earth to work out what they can with the Brak-Shar. But he decides that he owes us some help after manipulating us into the predicament.
The writing style is good too, with enjoyable dialogue and a reasonably fast pace. Part of the ending is a bit over the top, but perfectly fine given the overall story.
I enjoyed The Terran Consensus and found it easy to follow, with interesting characters and conflicts. Technology and gee-whiz space shenanigans are low key and only there to provide setting, not to detract from people