ARC Review: The Altreian Enigma by Richard Phillips

The Altreian Enigma by Richard Phillips Book Review
Title: The Altreian Enigma
Author: Richard Phillips
Publishing Date: December 6, 2016
Publisher: 47North
Language: English
Genre: Science Fiction
ISBN13: 9781503935273
Edition: Paperback (I got a digital ARC from Netgalley for an honest review)

When Mark and Heather Smythe saved Earth from the conquest-hungry Kasari Collective, they thought their work was done. But the world’s vast new government continued its quest to make extraterrestrial contact. And now, as a new gateway is activated to welcome the Kasari, whom world leaders take to be benefactors, only the Smythes stand a chance of countering their planet’s invasion and subjugation by a race of ruthless conquerors.

Years after their failed first mission, the Kasari have returned, bearing irresistible promises while concealing insidious plans to enslave humanity. But not if the Smythes—along with fearless CIA agent turned mercenary Jack Gregory and his partner, Janet Price—can help it. From the world’s last stronghold, they take the fight to enemies both earthling and alien—even as their comrades-in-arms join the warrior Koranthians in battling the Kasari on a far-off planet. But the greatest danger lies within Earth itself, where an ancient artifact prepares to summon doom from another world.


The Altreian Enigma was intense and full of pumping action... but not as intense as this:


Kidding aside, this is one awesome book! Physics lovers who are also into literature would love this book. What I couldn't understand in class before, this book gave a visual prose in terms of complex dynamical systems. There's the additive process when it comes to mind-binding that will come out some time in the end. It's fiction but I love how the author explained it as if it's a tangible event. Richard Phillips knows his thing.

I've come to the story twelve years after Dead Wrong and I felt so lost upon opening this book. I don't know what has happened since Rho Agenda Inception series (and I missed the last book) because as far as I can tell, everything happened on Earth. Suddenly, I was thrown into the second book of Rho Agenda Assimilation and now we're on an alien planet. That's what you get when you skip two books. So, spoiler for me (maybe): that thing possessing Jack Gregory is indeed an alien.

Anyway, I almost missed this book on Netgalley because the cover does not look compelling. If I haven't checked 47North's page, I wouldn't have known that this book is part of the Rho Agenda series (in a way). It's easy to tell, I judge the book by its cover unless I'm able to automatically read the name of the author and the name of the series.

I was actually surprised, now not only are Jack and Janet together, they have an eight-year old son already. Boy, was I spoiled with their love story. Robby took the best qualities from his parents but where his parents excelled at combat, Robby focuses on his intellect. He's just eight (and he'll be nine by the end of this book) and he might exhibit his physical prowess when he's bigger. Now, I'm rooting for this promising kid.

Robby is so mature that I found him so adorable because he's just eight years old.

Something happened in the previous book, making Robby another sentient crew member in an alien ship. The imagery I could borrow from would be that of Minority Report and a ton of other films. For this book, there's this alien ship where there are four crew members whose minds are "attached" to the ship when they wear this certain headgear. They have such a high-end alien ship that the only ship I could think of would be that of Tardis from Doctor Who (when functionality is concerned). When they connect with the ship, these crew members are clairvoyant in that they see simulations of different events depending on the query of a member with each member having a different quality.

The four members of this ship are Robby, the Smythes—Heather and Mark, and Jennifer who's currently in an alien planet somewhere. Basically, there are three plots and settings for this book: (1) the underground war with the Smythes in Earth, (2) Jennifer's out-of-this-world war in a Koranthian planet, and (3) Jack Gregory's soul-searching quest in the Altreian planet of Quol. We get a number of POVs from different characters: main, supporting and adversary.

It was fun yoyo-ing back and forth different settings. Just when you have your adrenaline pumping from one action sequence, you're met with a dreadful cliffhanger and have your adrenaline crashing in another setting only to get riled up again.

The story isn't similar but I love the Starship Troopers feel Jennifer's POV gives off. She's fighting for a General Dgarra, an army leader of the Koranthian, whom she has fallen in love with. On Jennifer's part, she's fighting a war with the Koranthians against the Kasaris who want nothing more than to build a galactic authoritarian rule. Thus the term, Kasari Assimilation. When you are assimilated in the Kasari hive network, members of the hive can see what you're seeing and they may be able to control you. The complex process is explained in the book.

I'm still confused what races are involved in this story. So far, apart from humans, these are what I gathered for Jennifer's concern: Eadric, Kasari, Koranthian, Graath. For Jack Gergory's part, he's problematizing the Altreians. The Altreians are divided into two races: the psionic Dhaldric and the communal Khyre. I love how their names are aspirated because aspiration is very apt for the amphibious Dhaldric race in that their ancestors once lived in the sea and down the line they have retained the qualities of being sea creatures while now living on land.

Another thing I could imagine from Doctor Who are the nanites which serve as "nano-healers" (I forgot the term in Doctor Who). Nanites are embedded in the body and they are sentient tiny technology that will be alerted to fix you up when homoeostasis is disturbed (say you're wounded or beaten up with internal damage). Again, the acquisition of this nanite technology happened in the two books I skipped. I thought I will be lost in the story but most of the things here are a montage of various technologies in many other films. If you're a fan of Star Trek and you don't understand the techs in Star Trek, you might be able to understand the concepts behind them offered in this book. Some materials (films, comics) present you things without offering explanation of how they work. Richard Phillips did his best to describe his techs to the tiniest details.

Reading this book, I got possible explanations of Star Wars' and Star Trek's battle spaceship mechanisms. Furthermore, with the Kasari's beehive neural network/hive-mind network, I'm reminded of Ender's Game. Now, I can also explain Reverse Flash's nanoparticle door in The Flash series.

You should watch Star Trek Beyond or Ender's Game for visualization of Heather's robot/drone workforce. Heather has created tons of robots to achieve her goal of destroying the gateway or portal that's being built by the world's best scientists. On my part, it helps a lot that I've read and watched quite a number of science fiction materials prior to reading this book because I could imagine this being a headache to sci-fi newbies. Unfortunately, this new series is only apt for sci-fi junkies. Perhaps, readers of the previous series could tolerate this but the concepts are getting harder to grasp because to me, this book was painful to read. I wasn't dismissed from the Physics program for nothing. Physics is damn hard. This book is painful in a way that it uses heavy Physics concepts and worse, it reminded me of all the things that I missed with my batchmates now on the way to getting their PhD. #SlashWrist

The author is not spouting nonsense. After all, if you go to the "about author page", you'll be able to read this, "He earned a master's degree in physics from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1989, completing his thesis work at Los Alamos National Laboratory." This book is fun to read especially if you have some background in Physics but if you don't have, the jargons used would be nothing but gibberish. Worse, things would just sound like pulled out of mojo when you're familiar with the terms but don't understand the concept. I hope scifi readers won't be discouraged with the book's nature.

My sadness aside, let me quote this from the book:

This brain was human, but all sentient species had the inherent structure for telepathy. But like the human ability to wiggle ears, few knew how to initiate such a feat.

Wow, I know that quote was referring to telepathy but wiggling the ears is considered a feat. I learned to wiggle my ears at ten. I can't believe I'm that great for doing so, just kidding again.

It was fun "watching" how the tide has turned for both Anchanchu (real name, Khal Teth) and Jack Gregory. When Jack was struggling in Rho Agenda Inception series, in this book it is Jack who's in control of Khal Teth's body to save both their asses when in the past, though not entirely in control, Anchanchu was the rider in Jack's body. Khal Teth's mind had stayed in Earth for hundreds of years but when he returned to his own planet Quol, it looks as if only a decade have passed in their time. It's amazing how the Altreians have a lifespan of thousands of years.

TONS of things happened in this book. It was impressive of Richard Phillips to be able to put up something so immense and complex in nature. A lot of affairs are thrown in and everything still stayed cohesive. The author's writing has leveled up so much from the last series.

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