Contact With Chaos
Michael Z. Williamson
Baen, Apr 7 2009, $24.00
The United Nations and Freehold fought war over the latter’s sovereignty. In spite of overwhelming superiority and winning the battles, the United Nations left Freehold and the Granne system as an independent nation.
The Freehold survey ship Hound Dog finds a sentient species the Ithkuil; the first alien encounter by humans. Freehold sends Captain Betang of the armed starship Healy to escort selected envoy Mark Ballenger to negotiate with the aliens. The UN sends Nurin Russ as its representative. Scientists begin probing the planet while big corporations salivate over a new customer especially Damon Egan of Halo Materials Group, who was on the Hound Dog when it made its startling find. The outsiders quickly conclude the aliens have little technology as surface metals are scarce yet in contradiction they have large metropolitan areas. Hiding their metal from the aliens so as not to cause disruption, the humans land to begin negotiations of a sort with a surprisingly advanced civilization that has non-metal based technology.
The latest Freehold science fiction is the best in the series (see FREEHOLD and THE WEAPON) as the United Nations and Freehold government agents try to control the capitalists who are biting at the bit to buy and sell with a new customer. The story line is profound as Ballanger finds it extremely difficult to keep the frenzied business interests from overwhelming his mission and the Ithkuil; as he learns hiding metal fails when moguls want to sell it as a high end product. Fans of the series or anyone who appreciates a well written first contact thriller will fully relish Michael Z. Williamson’s realistic spin on economics 101 in outer space as the buck stops when the customer forks it over.