Publisher: Pumpjack Press
Date of Publication: February 14th, 2021
Number of Pages: 318
The year is 2188 and the Earth—long-ago abandoned for Mars by the plutocrats—is scorched by poverty, disease, and environmental collapse. What these wealthy elite don’t know is that on his last trip upuniverse, Detective Crucial Larsen stumbled onto a secret that could destroy them. But he doesn’t intend to use it. Fighting back against the ruling Five Families of Mars is a fool’s game destined for failure—or worse, he thinks. Plus, he never wants to set foot on that damn planet again. Then Melinda, his long-lost love and a staff scientist on Mars, begs for his help clearing her fiancée of a murder charge. Crucial jumps on the next q-rocket, hoping maybe this time he can patch things up with Mel. His investigation ultimately leads back to the radiation-blasted sunbelt, where cannibal lizard-people—a climate change mitigation genetic experiment gone terribly wrong—hold the key to a different future, if only Crucial can stay alive long enough to unlock it.
Clueless Gent’s Rating for Scorched Earth
This storyline is so utterly good and written so utterly well that I didn’t want the book to end! Lucky for me, though – this is only the second book in this trilogy from Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays. I’ll be counting the days until I can read the third story, when it becomes available.
What makes this story so fantastic? It’s just a combination of things done markedly well. The ONLY bad thing I have to say about this book is that it ended. I’m satisfied and all that, but I want more!
In a trilogy, an author can do some serious world-building, and these authors didn’t even let the ink dry on the paper before they constructed elaborate worlds – one being a future Earth, and the other being a habitable Mars. This is a little hard to explain, but the worlds are just so cleverly built! The descriptions are marvelous and ingenious.
“I need to work on being less petty. Maybe tomorrow.” —Crucial Larsen
The protagonist is Crucial Larsen, a cop. The time is the year 2188 (or thereabouts). He always seems to be in the wrong place at the right time. The authors show that he has a heart of gold, but he rarely lets it be seen. He also has a very dry sense of cop humor. His dialogue is kind of like a twenty-second century version of the protagonists in the renowned Joseph Wambaugh cop books. What makes it even better, however, is the story is told in Crucial’s first person POV. We know what he’s thinking, and sometimes his thoughts are hilarious.
For example, Crucial really knows how to make an insult: “You strike me as a barely functioning biped.” He’s also quick to point out the oddities of cybanisms: “Wait, you poop … in cubes?” There were times that I laughed so hard at something Crucial said that my eyes started tearing.
The antagonists are the Five Families – the ruling class of humanity after the Consolidation Wars, and Halo – a computer system that collects data from everywhere – including the device all humans must have. “On day one, you’re born into this world. On day two, you get your Ocular Communication Device implanted.” Halo knows everything that’s going on and feeds the data to the FIST – the head of the Five Families. The ruling class keeps everyone else in line by keeping them in debt. I thought this construction worked together very well for the story to be told.
“Humans do lots of stupid things that aren’t always in our best interests. It’s what makes us ‘us.’”
I especially loved how the authors gave future names to some common vernacular: “two rockets, one launch pad” for kill two birds with one stone. And I’ll also never forget, “At the door, he turns and gives me the tall-finger.”
This story is also action-packed from start to finish! There was one part where I really got the creepy-jeebies, and I had an immediate flashback to a specific scene in the movie Aliens. (To find out which one, you’ll have to read the book. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know it when you get there.)
I could talk all day long about how much I enjoyed this book, but I think it would be best if I just let you read it for yourselves. Regardless of what your favorite genre is, I’m quite sure that you will thoroughly enjoy this book. (In case you’re wondering, you don’t need to read the first book to enjoy this one.)
As Crucial might say, “Not reading this book would cause you to bring a serious injustice on yourself.” Enough said.
ALL THREE BOOKS IN THE HALO TRILOGY,
including the forthcoming third book, when available.