Steven H Wilson

Book Review: Unfriendly Persuasion by Steven H. Wilson

Unfriendly Persuasion, to be released in February 2012 as of this review, is the second novel based on characters and situations in Steven H. Wilson's award winning SF audio drama, The Arbiter Chronicles.   Episodes of this podcasted series can be heard at Prometheus Radio Theatre.

As with his first novel, Taken Liberty, Wilson presents moral dilemnas between his very unique characters that conflict not only with the military chain of command in the Confederacy's space Navy, but also with personal friendships and religious beliefs.

Unfriendly Persuasion kicks off with a biased account of a terrorist attack against the Confederacy by reptilian aliens known as the Qraitians. The attack had been thwarted by the Titan, a massive battleship under the command of Captain Jan Atal.  However, when the crisis erupted, Lieutenant Terry Metcalfe had been in command as part of a training exercise.  Metcalfe is apparently a rare breed in the Inner Worlds, a Terran with strict morals that often make him a target of misunderstandings and ridicule from his fellow crewmates.  From Metcalfe's human point of view, the morals of his crewmen and women are loose at best.  Yet over time, he has learned to accept and befriend them. 

During a talk show interview, fellow Titan crewman and personal nemesis to Metcalfe, Sestus Blaurich, recounts the Qraitian incursion painting himself the hero and Metcalfe the blubbering, panic-stricken Terran.  Needless to say, nothing could be further from the truth as the story progresses and centers directly around Metcalfe, his strength of will, of character, and of faith.  Yet his victory over the Qraitian terrorists has left him changed, perhaps shaken.  He seeks counseling as he searches for answers.  All the while, he begins to alienate himself from his friends.

At the same time, the interview with the arrogant Blaurich fuels a fire already ablaze in the Confederacy, the need for heightened security at the sacrifice of personal freedoms--and this question is at the very heart of Unfriendly Persuasion.  Admiral Fournier, Jan Atal's commanding officer, orders interrogations of all civilians working aboard Titan, detaining anyone who resists or shows even the slightest indignation. 

Elsewhere in Confederate space exists a planet called Eleusis, a world that appears to harbor a vast and powerful intelligence, and possibly a weapon capable of destroying an entire solar system.   Its pacifist inhabitants, calling themselves The Family, worship this intelligence as a god and welcome all beings to their world without question--including the Qraitians, some of whom abandon their former lives and join The Family. 

The Confederate Admiralty finds this situation unacceptable.   Fournier orders the Titan, carrying a contingent of Marines, to Eleusis to evacuate the inhabitants and arrest all Qraitians for interrogation.  This becomes complicated by several factors.  A Qraitian warship is in orbit around Eleusis to transport the disgraced Qraitians off planet and return them home for execution.  On the planet, Metcalfe joins members of The Family in "Communion", a session of prayer to the God of Eleusis.   During the experience, Metcalfe is directly contacted by the intelligence and discovers after a short time that the omnipotent Eleusis has chosen him to be The One.  Could Metcalfe find the answers he seeks here?

Metcalfe is placed in a position to either follow orders and remove the pacifists from the planet or commit mutiny and join the Family as he is pulled deeper into the belief that he has, in fact, found The Almighty.   The intelligence makes its power apparent when members of the Family are attacked.  The aggressor simply disappears.  This goes for Qraitians and Confederates alike.

Wilson keeps the tension high as all hell breaks loose above the planet between Captain Atal, Admiral Fournier, and Qraitian Commander Ustenar.  The story centers around Metcalfe who finds himself also protected by the awesome power of Eleusis but also explores the other characters each through their relationships with Metcalfe and the lengths they would go to in order protect him and each other.  It is these relationships that are called to the forefront at the story's ending.

Fans of the audio drama definitely have a rich, solid story to which they can look forward come February 2012 and the casual reader can pick up Unfriendly Persuasion without in-depth knowledge of all that has gone before.