I admit it. I’ve a weakness for stories about aliens invading Earth, provided they are reasonably well-written, with interesting characters and a modicum of believability. Reclaim by new Australian author J. A. Scorch fits the bill. Reclaim has its weaknesses, namely some implausible character interactions, but it is well-plotted and full of likable people, all fighting to have a home and a future for humankind.
Plot and Writing Style
One real problem everyone who writes about desperate-humans-fighting-alien-invaders (DHFAI for short) has is the basic issue of why would there be many human survivors at all? And why wouldn’t the huge invader ships orbiting Earth simply blow them away? Lots of writers assume that the survivors are tiny remnants and the invaders simply haven’t gotten around to them yet. (Think Independence Day.) Scorch took the challenge of devising a reasonable answer, which the Earth forces are likewise trying to discover and exploit.
Reclaim is a fast read, clear and easy to follow. There weren’t an weird names nor did Scorch spend much time detailing all the wondrous weapons which all too many writers like to do. He combined narration and dialogue to tell the story
The story splits between two brothers, Teve in the united Earth army near the remnants of Los Angeles, and Bradley, a fighter pilot from the Mars space navy. Scorch alternates viewpoints, with Porter giving us a bird’s eye view of the overall war plus the Martian response and dedication, and Teve sees the on-the-ground mess and desperation.
Both characters have good friends and fellow fighters who are close comrades and the interplay between these gives the novel its life and moments of humor. Scorch uses dialogue to tell the story and show us the people involved.
Moments of Implausibility
Books like this have to be carefully and tightly plotted to feel real; it’s a tough challenge to write about Earth being conquered by aliens while still allowing for life and resistance and a story. If you read this type of novel you know the wince feeling you get when something truly stupid glares through. Reclaim had a couple of small wince moments.
Porter has to crash land into his carrier, towed by his wingman and flung through the door. Porter and his wingman both joke that the Mars higher ups would probably rather they had blown up than caused the dings and dents on the hanger. That didn’t feel right. Given the fact over 70% of humanity is dead, and that it takes years of experience for a pilot to be as good as Porter, I had to believe the higher ups would far rather keep him and others alive.
There were several comments along similar lines, suggesting the Mars leaders were perfectly happy to throw people and ships at the invaders’ ships orbiting Earth, even accepting 90%+ losses for what appeared small gains, dropping packages off to Earth and getting updates back. (I could understand they would accept almost any loss if it meant destroying the invaders’ ships.)
There were similar scenes in the Earth-based forces, where the Teve’s commander seemed willing to throw people away. These seemed more realistic because the losses were mainly newbies. This same commander also threw a tantrum when Teve was not able to achieve the impossible.
There were incidents between Brad and his superior officers that didn’t feel right either, especially when he was punished for questioning the strategy to throw everybody and everything at the invaders, knowing that left Mars essentially defenseless in the event of failure.
My one complaint with the plot is the ending. There are plenty of set up moments to point us in the direction Reclaim goes, including Teve’s supplier of Diazepan and his fascination with alien tech, the general prohibition on touching the alien’s constructs. Nonetheless the final ending seemed like a bit too pat, and a bit of a sideways jerk, not quite right.
I will surely read the second book in the series since I enjoyed Reclaim and am a sucker to find out just how Scorch intends to free the Earth and hopefully maintain the unity between Earth and Mars and among the Earth countries. Reclaim was one of the better DHFAI novels with an ambitious premise, rather good writing and interesting people.