The Last War by Alex Davis
Born from the genius of the Animex, the aliens of the Noukari seek to gain a foothold on a savage planet. But the greatest danger to their existence lies within them – a powerful gift of telepathy.
As the tension grows between idolatry and admiration of their creators, and the Noukari come to understand the latent powers within their own minds, a species created for peace are about to succumb to brutal violence.
In a galaxy torn by conflict, will the first battle between the Noukari also be their last war?
Based on the cover image, you could easily be forgiven into thinking that The Last War takes place in the vastness of space. That is certainly what I thought before I started reading. Turns out that you, and I are almost completely and utterly wrong. With the exception of a short prologue set in the inky void, the entire novel takes place in a small village called Genem.
Apius is utterly driven by the idea that the Animex are gods. He believes that as they are the de-facto creators of the Noukari so they should be accorded the appropriate reverence and spiritual worship. He is obsessed with the idea of contacting these creators. With his second in command, Viarus, they attempt to lead the village using a book based on a religious doctrine that Apius has written himself. He sees himself as the chosen voice of the Animex, and uses his skills as an orator and manipulator to guide his flock.
Zerial and Asha are hasban and wefi (husband and wife), their interpretation of the relationship between the Noukari and the Animex is completely different to the theology espoused by Apius and his followers. Asha is a firebrand, always vocal in her opposition of the new religion and its apparent stranglehold on their home. Zerial is less demonstrative but no less concerned regarding the turn of events.The two Noukari are more interested in learning about the potential that lies within all of their race. The couple have little interest in the nebulous goal of seeking out a supreme being who may or may not exist. For them both, evolution is a far more important motivating force. Their theories gain credence among the rest of the populace, in particular a young woman called Ameri.
Inevitably these two contrasting viewpoints begin to generate friction between the Animexians, the religious group, and the A’Nockians, the non-believers. What starts as a series of challenging discussions, ideas and debate, swiftly degenerates into a chaotic quagmire of barely supressed violence and finger pointing. Both groups consider themselves in the right and the others hopelessly wrong. The biggest question – which side is actually right?
Davis is attempting something quite grand with this novel. Watching an entire society grow and then start to implode is fascinating stuff. Viewing the loss of innocence and watching as power corrupts is a pretty heady mix. Leaders rise and fall while theology and politics are used as weapons to shape and reshape the direction of the Noukari. Davis has littered this story with many thought provoking questions. I can imagine any reader is going to have to stop and give thought about where their own sympathies lie when it comes to the various factions. The author has taken time to dissect the many shades of grey that accompany these arguments and this adds a nice extra depth to the story. There is little better that fiction that challenges pre-conceived notions, attempts to engage an audience and make them think.
A bit more cerebral than your usual science fiction, this is a great beginning to this trilogy. The final chapters offer a satisfying resolution to the tale but also set things up nicely for the next book in the series. You get the distinct impression that the conflict the Noukari experience is almost a microcosm of a much larger battle that is being carried out elsewhere. I’m looking forward to finding out where Davis takes the Noukari and the Animex. It seems likely the next destination will be the stars. I can only hope vast intergalactic warfare beckons!
The Last War is published by Tickety Boo Press and is available now.