||his is the first book I have read by Thomas Harlan, and it is
quite a find. It is the story of Gretchen Anderssen and a small team of helpers (including
a catlike alien named Magdalena) who are assigned to investigate the mysterious loss of
communication from the space ship Palenque, which was exploring Ephesus 3. Gretchen and
her team travel with the Cornuelle, a Navy light cruiser, to the star system. On board the
cruiser is a judge named Green Hummingbird, a mysterious powerful person in this culture.
The setting for this novel is an alternate universe in which Aztec and Japanese
empires became the dominant powers on our planet instead of Western civilization. It is a nice
idea, but I don't think it really changes the story much; many of the characters have Aztec or
Japanese names, but they seem to act just people in our universe. The Aztec Japanese background
needs to be expanded in future books (Wasteland of Flint is apparently the first in a series called
the Sixth Sun, the second volume is now available called House of Reeds. I never did find out what
the title Wasteland of Flint meant - it doesn't seem to reference anything in the novel).
Here is what I like about this novel: it successfully portrays a mysterious
and menacing planet - Ephesus 3. There are artifacts from a civilization called The First Sun, which
apparently was a vastly more powerful species than humans. Indeed, the entire planetary surface of Ephesus 3
has been ripped off from the planet for unexplained reasons. One of these artifacts was opened aboard
the Palenque, which unleashed a nanoweapon that killed everyone aboard. There is some nice creepy
exploration of the Palenque. A second, unopened artifact is found on the Palenque - Gretchen wants to
study it, but others advise it is much too dangerous and it should be thrown into the sun.
On the desolate surface of Ephesus 3 they find some stranded scientists, who have
been unable to return to the Palenque since the nanoweapon was unleashed. But missing from the team is
Dr Russovsky, who originally found the artifacts. The fate of Russovsky is interesting and creepy, very
well done. Was Russovsky in contact with another space ship? The wreck of a shuttle is found - and the
shuttle is not from the Palenque. There is a long, but intense, chase sequence amongst the asteroid belt
for this other space ship (which may not even exist).
Here is what is disappointing about Wasteland of Flint - no explanation about what
the second artifact is. Not nearly enough explanation about the very dangerous First Sun culture. What is at
the heart of the planet - I believe someone suggest that there maybe something powerful hidden at the core. What
was that mysterious shuttle trying to do? Did it also pick up some of the artifacts? I think Harlan leaves
a few too many loose ends. But overall I like the story, it reminds me of the menace in Revelation Space
by Alastair Reynolds. I like the "ecology" of Ephesus 3, and the constant menace of alien technology.
I am sure I will read the second book. Is there are third?