Wil McCarthy
Aggressor Six (1994)
Reviewed: 1996-10-01

The Waisters are coming, and they are eradicating all human life in their path. Not quite five hundred years in the future, mankind has started seeding the stars. Slower-than-light colony ships crawled on a one-way journey to nearby star systems. Now, some nine hundred years later, the colonies are independently prospering societies in their own right, only linked by ansible to the mother world. Traveling at 0.9c the alien ships arrive from the direction of Orion, from the belt, the waist of the hunter's figure which gave the constellation its name. There is no warning, there is no communication. The other worlds watch in horror as the Wolf 359 colony is annihilated, the system wiped clean. The slow radio messages arriving late from Sirius, where the ansible has never been completed, reveal a similar fate. The remaining worlds know that the clock is ticking, their own extinction scheduled according to the time the Waister ships will need to cross the gulf between the stars. Despite every effort, the instant conversion to war economy and tooling up of military production, there is hardly any hope for mankind. Human technology does not match that of the aliens, not by a wide margin.

Desperate times require desperate measures. Too little is known about the aliens. Who are they? What are their motives? How can they possibly be thwarted? When the first scout group of the Waister armada enters the Solar System it is met with fierce resistance. The human fleet suffers huge losses, but the scouts are defeated and in Operation Flyswatter a single one of the enormous alien vessels can be captured. The insights gained are invaluable. The Aggressor Six project is initiated. A team of five humans and a dog are to emulate a six, a basic Waister social unit consisting of a queen, two workers, two drones, and a "dog". They need to feel and think like the enemy, they must become the enemy. A last chance to find a means to stop the impending attack. Corporal Ken Jonson is one of the few survivors of Operation Flyswatter. Severely traumatized by his experiences, he is at the core of Aggressor Six, a desperate group of people tottering at the edge of insanity in their attempt to grasp the alien mindset.

Aggressor Six is Wil McCarthy's first novel. Occasionally it shows. The intertwining time lines of the first chapters are handled more clumsy than clever, delivering the background exposition too late to the confused reader. The central idea is reasonably original, but altogether we learn unsatisfactorily little about the Waisters, next to nothing really. The characters remain mostly blank cards. The bleakness of the situation is remindful of David Gerrold's The War Against the Chtorr series, but the protagonists are much less involving. Nor does the novel match the powerfull horror of The Killing Star. All things considered, Aggressor Six is an unremarkable book.

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