Part 2 of Alder’s World is out today, and I was fortunate enough to get an advance copy for this review. I was not disappointed.
The book picks up the story ten years after the conclusion of Part 1, showing us what’s happened to Alder and his crew since the Duster crash-landed onto the new planet formed by Mass 17. There’s a few glimpses of what happened in the immediate aftermath of their landing, including some vivid descriptions of the wreckage and the accompanying deaths, but most of Part 2 is set later in the timeline.
Alder has become the leader of a strange tribe, with the survivors forced to live inside of their ship’s corpse and make use of whatever limited resources they have to stay alive in the harsh conditions. His concern for his wife Elana, who’s never quite recovered from the crash, is eating away at him more every day, and he’s in denial about how much her condition continues to deteriorate. The enigmatic Technoprey roam the planet, sending out scouts and groups of “cutters” that raid the broken ship, seeking out sources of electricity and damaging more of the makeshift colony each time. They’ve managed to survive for a long time on the alien world, but sooner or later, they’ll need to find a location to build a new home.
Everything I loved about Part 1 is here again, and more. The scenes are constructed in such a way that the reader sees and knows everything they need to, without ever feeling bogged down in the text. I read through this second volume of Alder’s World with as much ease as the first, leaving me to focus on the story without needing to decipher any tangled prose or confusing exposition. The ambient lore of Dryden Universe is a steady presence, even if it takes a step back in favor of the newly settled planet, and every little bit that we learn about the Technoprey adds to their infamy for those who’re aware of how they fit into the shared universe.
One of my concerns was the lack of development for secondary characters in Part 1, but this book addressed that in abundance. Characters that flitted in and out of the story have a much stronger presence this time around. While Alder’s personal development continues to take center stage in the novel, we’re also learning more about characters like Harshaw, Mbaka, and Koriminski.
The biggest addition here comes in the form of emotional impact. While the first volume of Alder’s World definitely had some cool moments, this follow-up packs more of a punch in terms of its ability to connect with the reader on an emotional level. Perhaps it’s partially because we’re a little more familiar with the characters, but overall I felt more connected to them. This stands out particularly toward the end of Part 2, which I don’t want to say anything too specific about. It’s a good ending, and much like Alder in the book, I couldn’t prepare myself for what happened, despite all of the signs that are woven into the narrative.
If you liked the first part of Alder’s World, you’ll like this one, too. Joel Stottlemire has created a fascinating slice of Dryden Universe to tell us a profound story about people fighting to survive and overcome the challenges of their past, present, and future among the stars. The characters have become stuck in my head, and I’m sure they’ll linger there for some time. Outwardly, it’s a novel about scientists and engineers, filled with nanobots and alien encounters, but Alder’s World continues to impress me with its sense of immediacy and deeply human concerns. Introspection, evolution, love, triumph, and tragedy all have their place here—right alongside gyrocopters, chlorophyll probes, and genetically engineered gill fish. Alder’s World is science-fiction, no question there, but it’s grounded in our familiar, imperfect human vision that’s as burdened by our limitations as it is spectacularly rendered by the wonders of our imagination.
For more on Alder’s World and The Dryden Experiment, check out my interview with author Joel Stottlemire: Talking Alder’s World and Talking Dryden. Get the latest updates on what’s happening in The Dryden Experiment on the Author and Artists Page on Facebook.