This is the story about a star coming to the end of its life and what the civilization surrounding it does to survive. The Siege of Praetar gives a brief overview with how the Melisao is evacuating and preparing to save those it can, and then focuses on three specific characters and how they are coping with these end times.
In the first part, “The Sentinel,” there is a ship of the same name hovering near orbit on guard. It’s duty is to watch freighters leaving Praetar that have to be a specific weight and transporting necessary goods as part of the evacuation. Any ships that are under the required weight are to be destroyed without question, as they are presumed to be carrying weapons. But sometimes these ships are also carrying refugees. Nevertheless, it’s up to whoever is at the controls of the Sentinel to carry out their orders and destroy on sight if necessary. But what happens when one of the two-person team decides that one of these ships carrying refugees needs to escape?
“The Mother” shows the moving story of a single-mother doing her best to support her two daughters. She works long hours at the factory for a small number of discs to help her get food rations for her and her children. It’s a harsh world and to make matters worse one of her daughters is sick due to the toxic air everyone is now breathing. But medicine costs a lot. And then there is the journey she must make to and from work with rough people on the street doing worse than her looking to take what money she has and more. So when her supervisor gives her some extra credits as a gift to pay for medicine for her daughter, she graciously accepts as she eyes the drawer full of credits and begins to wonder if she might be able to steal some of that great bounty.
The third and final part, “The Snake,” is about an unlikeable character who is succeeding and profiting off those less fortunate in these end of the world times, but then you need to do what you can to survive. The Snake is just looking out for number one, because that’s what he’s always done. The reader briefly met him in Part Two, but gets to know more about his character and his world in the third part. He is a slumlord known as the “Lord of the Station” and is also a corrupt member involved in launching those important freighters into space. He happens to know which ones have refugees hidden aboard, as well as what will happen to the freighter once it reaches orbit and is intercepted by the Sentinel.
The Siege of Praetar is a story of suffering and pain and doing what needs to be done to survive, whether you are one in power or not. Do you just follow the rules and do as your told? Or do you break them to try to make it through these end times? These are moving stories that feature plenty of conflict and drama, though the key to remember is that this is the first volume; do not expect denouement and satisfying conclusions here, for this is a tough world and there is more story to tell. The Siege of Praetar gives a moving story into various aspects of this world, told by an author who doesn’t hold back on the gritty details, along with complex and interesting characters that the reader soon cares emotionally for. By the end, said reader will be wondering what will happen next.
Originally written on October 3, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.
Originally published in the San Francisco Book Review.
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