The novel “Stargazer: Civil War” (“Stargazer: Bürgerkrieg”) by Ivan Ertlov was published for the first time in 2021 and translated from German by Marly Gram. It’s the third book in the After Terra series and follows “Stargazer: New Home – Ancient Foes“.
The crew of the starship Yrsha are on trial on a moon of Grarosh for allegedly eating their captain, Frank Gazer. The defense argues that there was an accident on board that practically fried Frank and he would never have wanted to end up wasted: on the contrary, he would have considered it an honor to be eaten by his colleagues and friends but something doesn’t add up.
Troshk is contacted by his home planet’s authorities because a subordinate of his believed dead years ago has returned home after years, alive but physically and mentally battered. In lucid moments, he tells Troshk that a rebellion has begun within the Plachtharr Alliance freeing their symbiotes from slavery. There’s a chance to transform the Alliance but the Protectorate can’t risk open war, so it’s decided to send the Stargazer consortium on a secret mission.
The After Terra series is set centuries after the destruction of the Earth. It’s inspired by classic science fiction with a strong space adventure element in an interstellar community full of sentient, not necessarily friendly, species. In this series, Ivan Ertlov mixes adventure and important themes with some humor. That’s especially true in “Stargazer: Civil War” in the opening part and in some parts involving the Greys, the alien species that became part of human ufological folklore following unofficial contacts.
The third novel in the After Terra series tells a new story that offers a lot of new information about the Plachtharr Alliance, one of the interstellar coalitions that include various species. In the previous novels, Ivan Ertlov included what was necessary to understand the situation of a kind of interstellar cold war and this included the fact that the members of the Plachtharr Alliance host symbiotes that allow them to form a kind of broad community united in mind level that transcends the host’s species.
A central theme of “Stargazer: Civil War” is the contrast between freedom and oppression. These are concepts that are superficially obvious but the definitions of freedom and oppression can be different. That’s especially true in a society that is supposed to be united thanks to symbionts that allow overcoming prejudices connected to the host’s species. The story of a different situation, in which the symbionts are actually used to subjugate the species that are part of the Alliance, offers some food for thought also linked to the consequences of a war fought years earlier.
The After Terra series remains above all adventurous, with lots of action and twists. The plots are told at a pace that remains fast even when the characters discuss important issues, in this case, related to freedom and the possible consequences of their intervention in the Plachtharr Alliance.
The novels in the After Terra series tell self-contained stories while building parts of larger stories at the same time. For this reason, “Stargazer: Civil War” contains various references to the previous novels, which you must also read to familiarize yourself with the protagonists, their species, and the coalitions at the center of this fictional universe. It’s a series I recommend to lovers of space opera with many alien species.