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Review: The Lucky Starman – Colin Alexander

The Lucky Starman - Colin Alexander - Leif the Lucky

Genre: Sci-Fi, Post-Apocalyptic

Reviewer: Scott

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About The Book

Is Leif really lucky? Stranded in orbit, viewing a destroyed civilization on Earth through the screens of a starship almost out of fuel and food, he doesn’t feel that way.

It wasn’t supposed to be like that.

As the starship Dauntless returns from a successful mission to the planet called Heaven, Earth holds no attractions for Exoplanetary Scout Leif Grettison. He wants only to complete the mission and leave for another star, along with ace pilot Yang Yong. In fact, he would be happy spending the rest of his life flying the starways with her. 

But they and the rest of the ship’s skeleton crew awaken from hibernation to find Earth’s solar system dark and silent—no signals, no responses to their transmissions. When they make orbit, the magnitude of the disaster becomes clear: An apocalyptic war has killed billions and destroyed every last source of power and tech that 22nd-Century humans relied on to survive.

Getting down to Earth is only the beginning of Leif’s problems. Those few who survived the apocalypse are still divided, fighting over what’s left. The disastrous re-entry to Earth leaves him with no resources or allies. He lands in the middle of a makeshift family that needs him more than he’s comfortable with and hears stories—even nursery rhymes—that speak of a lucky starman. For once, he’s the only person with tech—but if he’s caught using it, they might kill him.

Can a man back from the stars end the warfare on Earth, or will he make it worse? Can he save a family that might become his? Is he everyone’s lucky starman?

The Review

You know that thing where you pick up a book (or run across it online, more likely these days) and the blurb just grabs hold of you and makes you HAVE TO READ THAT BOOK?

This happened to me recently when I read the blurb for The Lucky Starman, the third book in the Leif the Lucky trilogy. I’d already read book one, Starman’s Saga, so now all I had standing between me and my new must-read was book two.

Which I then proceeded to plow through like a box full of stale peeps. Which is to say quite quickly.

What fascinates me about this series is how well they hold together, despite each being almost a totally different genre. The first book was a straight-up colonization jam, one of my favorite things, as humans explore a new world and figure out how to live there.

Book two masqueraded as a colonization tale, but was really a space murder mystery, and a quite well done one at that.

Which brings us to book three (and this has to be a first for me, writing six paragraphs before I get down to the heart of a review). The Lucky Starman is a post-apocalyptic western – set on Earth a hundred years after everything collapses in a war that’s as much cyber as it is conventional. Much of the action after Leif’s return to Earth is set in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio, which brought to mind two things immediately – the amazing Apple TV series See, which covers much of the same ground, and my friend David Wind’s Neveah series, which is also centered around a “starman” who returns to a devastated earth and tries to help reunite it.

But the similarities end there.

The reason this whole Frankenstein monster of a series works (and works so fricking well) is the steady hand of the author through the first-person narrator, Leif Grettison. We know who Leif is – a sometimes lucky regular joe with above average combat skills and some paramedic experiences, the prototypical jack of all trades and master of none. Leif knows his limits and has an easy-going sense of humor. He tries to do the right thing, even when it’s not exactly clear what that is. And he has a stubborn streak that often results in him taking on more than he can chew, and then somehow figuring out a way to polish off the whole meal anyhow.

After the initial return to Earth from their second starshot, the crew of the Dauntless finds a solar system transformed – and utterly quiet. No welcoming signal from Earthbase. In fact, no electronic signals from Earth at all. As they explore, they discover that a terrible war killed off something like 99% of Earth’s population not too long after they left, and the rest are trying to pick up the pieces.

A shocking event sends Leif off on an unexpected direction, and we finally get to see firsthand what things are like down on Earth.

I don’t want to spoil the fun, so suffice it to say things are a mess, but there are still good people trying to set the world right again. And you know Leif will become one of them, whatever his better judgment tells him.

One of the most fascinating threads here is how no one trusts history anymore. By the time of the Tribulations – the horrible years after the last war – history has been twisted around so much by all the factions seeking advantage that no one trusts anything that’s not actually printed in books, and old books at that.

And even then, the disinformation wars give license to anyone who might claim to know the truth of the past, because any book could have been printed “from a computer,” and therefore is suspect. The world is also fuel poor, with so much of it having been extracted by the old civilization, and its citizens inherently distrustful of anything remotely electronic, including wires in old building walls.

It’s a stinging indictment of where we are today with the lies our society is awash in, and where this road might lead. And having someone who’d actually lived through those times and knows the truth proves crucial to the plot before the end.

This is one of those books I hated to put down, and found myself sneaking reads of wherever I had a couple extra minutes. The story didn’t go at all where I thought it would, but in the end, it reached a very satisfying conclusion. All is well in Leif Grettison’s world.

Until I read the coda. And then, damn. Why’d the author have to go and drop something like that on me and then make me wait for book four?

I also wanna know more about the “ferals” – I kept waiting for enlightenment on that point, but by the last few pages I knew I wasn’t gonna get it in this book.

The Lucky Starman is another grab-you-by-the-shirt-collar books that drags you along for the ride and doesn’t let up until you’ve reached the end. Nicely done, Mr. Alexander. I’m already guessing what book four will be. I have my suspicions, but I don’t want to give anything away. Just don’t make me wait too long.

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.