(Book Two of the Exchange)
By Dale Cozort
Available at Amazon
In book one of this series, a huge portion of Illinois was transplanted to an alien world and vice versa. The people, who chose to remain on that other, more hostile world, tagged it Bear Country. By the end of that first novel, there were two colonies of humans established in Bear Country. One made up of good people longing for a simpler, more basic life and eager to recreate the old frontier spirit in themselves. The other group was escaped convicts from the Illinois State Prison, dozens of hardened murders, thieves and rapists preferring this new savage land rather than return to their incarceration back on our earth. The book ended with survivor Sharon Mack and her fiancée, government agent Leo West, resigned to the fact that eventually there would be a bloody confrontation with the convicts to resolve which group would ultimately control Bear Country.
With “Devouring Wind,” writer Dale Cozort picks up the story of Bear Country and immediately adds a new wrinkle to his tale, aliens. Another “exchange” has occurred and this time, rather than transferred another chunk of our familiar earth to Bear Country, the unexplained phenomenon has brought over a piece of land from an alien world. At its core is an ancient, ruined city buried under a jungle of black vines. Both the settlers of Fort Egan, the frontier community, and the convicts, under the leadership of Sam Kittle, see the new alien presence as something dangerous; to be studied with extreme caution.
When surveyor drones fly out of those supposedly lifeless buildings and begin scouting both camps, it soon becomes clear some manner of automated alien machinery is still active in the ruins and poses a real threat to all humans in Bear Country. In the end both sides have no recourse but to form a shaky alliance to explore this alien territory. All the while several members of the convict town are plotting to overthrow Kittle and take control of Fort Egan. Sharon, her autistic daughter Bethany, and a former convict named Woody are caught in the middle of these machinations doing their best to keep things together while at the same time solve the mystery of what destroyed the alien city and learn if it is still a viable danger to their own existence.
We’ve read lots of science fiction over the years with alternate world themes but nothing quite like what Cozort has created in this highly imaginative series. His characters are wonderfully complex and their interactions with one another are the sparks that fire up this storytelling engine. He mixes human psychology with our understanding of social mores and from this recipe offers up a truly thought-provoking adventure we thoroughly enjoyed. Hopefully there is a book three on the way. That would make us very happy indeed.