Book Reviews: Dawn of Chrysalis by Sam B. Miller II

Trigger Warning: Dawn of Chrysalis involves violence, gore, and hints of rape. If you have had any experiences with these subjects or would overall prefer to avoid them, proceed with caution. Also be advised that trafficking—albeit alien trafficking rather than human trafficking—plays a minor role attached to the conquest/colonization elements. Readers continue at your own discretion.

Spoiler Alert: Dawn of Chrysalis is the sequel to The Origin of F.O.R.C.E., and so there will be spoilers for the first book discussed in this review. Proceed with caution if you do not wish for the first book to be spoiled for you.

Today I’m revisiting the work of Sam B. Miller II to review Dawn of Chrysalis, the second novel in The Origin of F.O.R.C.E. series. I thought that the first book was really good; the second is even greater. I’ve always had a mix of fascination for and aversion to the idea that intelligent life has visited our planet, and Miller confuses these feelings even more.

The Chrysallamans have never met their match, not physically, not technologically, and definitely not mentally. That is, they hadn’t been evenly matched, not until they encountered 21st-century Earthlings. Genetically modified with “unique” DNA, these humans aren’t like the ones the Chrysallamans encountered in the 1940s, and they don’t take the invasion lying down.

Dawn of Chrysalis picks up where the first book left off. The Chrysallaman military has been defeated; Whatsit and the human members of F.O.R.C.E. are creating a plan to assimilate peaceful Chrysallaman colonists into Earth’s population while also confronting the Emperor for his aggressive ways. Thanks to technological advances and the help of some cooperative Chrysallaman scientists, F.O.R.C.E. seems almost ready to make the trip to Chrysalis. There’s just one problem: a new enemy has forced the Emperor to flee to Earth, and he’s expecting a warm and protective welcome from his subjects. Readers and the characters begin to wonder: what caused the Emperor to leave Chrysalis, and what has F.O.R.C.E. gotten itself into this time?

Image retrieved from Amazon

With a new enemy for Chrysallamans and humans beyond our solar system and the reemergence of an old enemy on the home front, General Blunt, Whatsit, and the rest of F.O.R.C.E. have their work cut out for them. They now must protect Earth, innocent Chrysallamans, and themselves from multiple threats about whom they hardly have any information. With humor and a splash of romance, Miller takes readers on an adventure through space, death, and, detrimentally, scientific trial and error. Will F.O.R.C.E. be able to save Earth from this new threat? Will they discover and snuff out the enemies hiding among them before it’s too late? And what will greet F.O.R.C.E. when they reach Chrysalis?

In my review of The Origin of F.O.R.C.E., I stated that I am not a fan of human-alien first-encounter stories. Usually the invasion aspect turns me off. However, I make an exception for Miller’s work. Dawn of Chrysalis, much like the first book, adds much more depth to these first encounters than the clear-cut good guy/bad guy dynamic of the typical alien invasion. Readers quickly learn that not all Chrysallamans are bad and not all humans are good. Miller even turns the tables on the Chrysallamans, causing them to fall victim not only to the human rebels but to invaders of their own. The humor of this twist alone was enough to pull me through the entire 358 pages; people tend to forget how easily conquerors can be conquered and how there will always be someone more advanced than you in one way or another.

The novel’s length can be off-putting but, once again, it’s a quick read once you get started. The writing is simple but engaging, and Miller explains the scientific aspects in a way which allows even those without interest in such matters to understand the principles behind the technology F.O.R.C.E. develops. The first few chapters are a bit slower than the others; Miller reserves quite a bit of exposition for restating many facts, such as plot elements and character development, from the first book. While this catch-up could help new readers or be a refresher for current fans, I found the repetition rather tedious.

At least two of the stereotyped characters from the first book become better-rounded, with one even becoming more likeable. My favorite character remains Whatsit. After all, he’s an alien who’s both a lover and a fighter, having the empathy of a human and the shrewd battle skills of a Chrysallaman. Still, the McPherson/Heinbaum dynamic almost steals the rug from under Whatsit’s feet. The men remain opposites but have come to a better understanding and, arguably, have become best friends. No one can harm one—physically or emotionally—without retaliation from the other. This close bond combined with the humor of their back-and-forth makes McPherson and Heinbaum tied for my second favorite character, narrowly being beaten out by Whatsit.

A new, diverse cast of characters takes the stage as well. We meet the Asiddians, a race of bird-like warrior aliens bent on domination and power, a threat even to the vicious Chrysallamans. Miller also introduces Chrysallaman civilians, most notably scientists Dr. Jamins GooYee and JnnWall MerrCrr as well as Chellsee Brookkss, the Emperor’s enslaved concubine with a fondness for Whatsit. More human characters come into play as well but, to avoid spoilers, I will leave the statement at that.

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E., the first book of Miller’s series

Miller fills Dawn of Chrysalis with multiple forks in the road. Two in particular caught me by surprise but, in hindsight, make perfect sense for the plot, which is the sign of a good plot twist. He also maintained my interest by exploring the differences among humans, Chrysallamans, and Asiddians, which leads to many amusing linguistic misinterpretations.

I found multiple proofreading errors throughout the book, particularly missing punctuation. The errors seem more prominent than in the first novel but they did not detract from my overall reading experience, and so I would not discourage anyone from Miller’s writing because of them.

This book does not follow the same format as the first book, covering a smaller time span in more detail with fewer jumps. Nevertheless, Dawn of Chrysalis keeps the same level of intrigue, originality, and creative energy that I have come to expect from Miller. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this story and highly recommend the series to fans of new takes on old-style science fiction. I can’t wait to get my hands on the third book and see what’s next for F.O.R.C.E. and the Chrysallamans.

To order Dawn of Chrysalis, follow this link to Amazon. For more information on the author and The Origin of F.O.R.C.E. series, visit the series Facebook page, follow @SamBMillerII on Twitter, or look the books up on Goodreads.

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Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

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