Well, I’ve finally reached it – the final book in Karen Traviss’ Wess'har Wars series. I’ve been spacing the six-part series out, reading a variety of different books in between as if I was awaiting the next book’s release. This is what I would have done had I known about Karen Traviss and her amazing writing when they came out before, so I figured I would read the series this way now. But here I am at the end of Judge. No more Wess’har books…so sad.
Judge picks up some twenty-five years after Ally with former police officer Shan Frankland coming out of cryo to find that the Eqbas have arrived on Earth. Along with her husbands, former Marine Ade and former Wess’har warrior Aras, the rest of the Royal Marine contingent and the survivors of the Constantine colony, Shan prepares to relinquish the gene bank that was preserved at Constantine and then later at the alien planet of Wess’ej. The colonists and Royal Marines will stay on Earth, but it is an Earth in far worse shape than the one they left.
The Eqbas have made a deal with the Australian government to come to Earth and find a way to fix the damage that overpopulation, pollution and other human failings have caused. They plan on restoring some of the animals and plants from the gene bank, but first, the people of Earth must agree to reduce their population…or the Eqbas will cull it for them. This is all quite astonishing for the people of Earth and a bit hard to stomach for those humans along for the ride, but there are perhaps more terrifying things aboard the premiere Eqbas ship to arrive on Earth.
Unbeknownst to the crew or cargo, Esganikan, the leader of the Eqbas team has infected herself with c’naatat, a bacteria that can alter the physiological state of its host, changing the biology of that host to suit its environment by drawing on past hosts’ best physical traits. It also renders its host nearly immortal. Shan, Ade and Aras have the bacteria, but they know it would be folly to allow other less scrupulous individuals the opportunity to get their hands on it. Unfortunately, the Eqbas leader is not so certain.
Also a tad scary are the Skavu, a reptilian alien race, fanatical about the environment and the Eqbas teachings about its care. Shan and her friends have come to blows with this group before on Umeh, another planet in which the population had to be culled in order to save the civilization. Shan worries about a repeat performance.
What was already a tense situation gets worse when Shan and the others learn about Esganikan. Shan has her orders from the Matriarch’s on Wess’ej, but can she go through with them. And what about the revelation that one of the Eqbas scientists can now remove c’naatat from virtually any host? What will this mean for Shan, Ade and Aras? Will they decided to go back to being mere mortals, or soldier on, outliving all of their friends and loved ones?
Karen Traviss’ Wess’har Wars series is a thinking man’s science fiction series. The books make you question what you might do in each character’s situation. They make you question your own moral scope. And they also make you question how much you are doing to preserve or destroy the world you are living in. With all the discussion of climate change and other ecological issues around the world, this series is incredibly relevant to the present day. The major characters undergo a great deal throughout the series and, finally, in Judge, they have to make decisions that will affect not only their lives, but the lives of millions. Could you make those same decisions even if it meant sacrificing everything?
Traviss’ descriptive writing is such that you can imagine everything in your mind’s eye, from the arid wasteland that Australia has become to the beauty of the alien city of F’nar to the morphing technology that is the Eqbas mother ship. The characters are so well-thought out and written as to invest you in the outcome of each one, from the most evil to the most beloved. You are loathe to lose a single one, but lose them you must as the novel series spans generations.
I couldn’t help but sympathize with Shan, Ade and Aras and their situation…at all of the things they had gained at a price and at all they had lost. I don’t know if I could have made the decisions they made by the end of Judge, but Traviss found a way to make the reader at peace with those decisions, no matter how shocking. I loved the way every loose end was tied up in Judge – you knew what happened to every character…or at least what the future might hold for them. Every storyline was wrapped up neatly. Judge was the perfect conclusion to the series.
I can go on and on about this series, but the truth is, you won’t believe how good it really is unless you get your hands on it yourself. Karen Traviss is an incredibly gifted writer, well-versed in character development and descriptiveness. I loved her Star Wars novels, but I think I love The Wess’har Wars series of books even more. This series is a must have for any fan of well-written and thought-provoking science fiction.