Without A Front: The Producer’s Challenge by Fletcher DeLancey
Become part of Alsea, an amazing world where the world's leader meets the challenge of a stubborn farmer.
I have been reading sci-fi now for over forty years, and there is no doubt in my mind that Fletcher DeLancey is among the finest authors in this genre. If you relished the Honor Harrington series by David Weber – esp. the early books – or the Miles Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, the Chronicles of Alsea are right up your alley: Exquisite, intricate world building, in-depth character studies, political intrigue plus military action …. De Lancey has it all. And Without A Front: The Producer’s Challenge is simply a fabulous read and re-read and re-re-read. Yes. It is so good!
This book continues the saga of Alsea, which started in The Caphenon with the Voloth invading the planet inhabited by humanoid empaths. First contact with other starfaring races involved not only the brutal Voloths but the Protectorate, who came to battle the Voloths side by side with the Alseans. Now Alsea and its leader, Lancer Tal, have to deal with the fallout of first contact. How to deal with new technologies and what to do now that deeply ingrained cultural taboos were broken during the battle of Alsea? There are no precedents, and political friends and enemies are trying to exploit the situation. The most resistance against change comes from the farmers, or as Alseans call them, producers. And Lancer Tal, the tried and proven warrior, has to fight her hardest battle with one stubborn producer, Salomen Opah, who dares to issue a challenge. Not one to back off, Andira Tal, Alsea’s leader, agrees to work for four weeks on Salomen’s farm and experience the life of a farmer. This challenge will turn her whole world upside down and bring her a gift beyond her wildest dreams, as well as unprecedented perils.
To enjoy Without A Front, it is not entirely necessary to have read The Caphenon, the first book of the Alsean Chronicles. Where The Caphenon focuses on first contact, invasion, battles, and difficult moral choices, Without A Front is a thorough exploration of Alsean society, a society which has to redefine itself after first contact. And Fletcher DeLancey works true magic here. Her words convey an utterly vivid picture of a fully developed empathic alien society, and explores the nooks and crannies of an established caste society. There are no information dumps, but the story masterfully offers those bits and pieces, which quickly engage the reader’s imagination, until I felt myself part of the Alsean society. Each new piece of information added to my understanding of this fascinating world, and I looked eagerly forward to the next tidbit. The characters are memorable as well: Of course there are Andira Tal, the Lancer, and Salomen, the producer. But there is a whole host of well-developed secondary characters which I came to love and look forward to—Jaros, Micah to name just a few.
To sum it up: the phenomenal writing, the captivating characters, and the superb world building make this series and Without A Front one outstanding read for all lovers of sci-fi or fantasy.
Ylva Publishing is to be commended because the second part of Without A Front will be published just one month after the first part, which will satisfy the reader eager to follow up on the second part of the challenge. This mitigates the emotional trauma readers may suffer because of the cliffhanger at the very end of this book. Enjoy, but expect to be dead to the world until you have finished reading and maybe re-reading.