The novel “Zona II: Sabertooth Uprising” by Fred G. Baker was published for the first time in 2023. It’s the second book in the Zona series and follows “Zona: The Forbidden Land“.
Grant Taylor and his group of explorers camp in the core of the crater called Zona with the idea of spending the winter there. They formed an alliance with the giant dire wolves that live in the Zona but discover that the sabertooth lions have warlike intentions.
Max Volkov managed to return to St. Petersburg, where he joins Boris Ustinov to set up a new expedition to Zona that brings supplies to the group that stayed there there. This takes time, also because it’s necessary to maintain the secret of the location of the crater and what Max and his traveling companions found there.
“Zona II: Sabertooth Uprising” continues the series focused on the exploration of a Siberian crater that hosts a decidedly unusual ecosystem. The first novel was in many ways the classic story of a sort of lost world in which the exploration of the unknown was important, with the unexpected events and dangers that the characters had to face. This sequel also offers plenty of adventure and perhaps even greater danger even as Zona begins to feel familiar territory.
Fred G. Baker uses his imagination in inventing Zona’s ecosystem but draws inspiration from real species, even if now extinct, in creating the ones at the top of the food chain. The enormous Zona dire wolves are modeled after the species known as Aenocyon dirus while the sabertooth lions take their inspiration from smilodons.
The evolution of these species discovered in the area isn’t really scientifically plausible because the author is decidedly more interested in creating an engaging story. For this reason, the classification of this series can also be questionable and is a case where a genre label can be limiting.
The humans that remained in Zona find themselves in the midst of a possible war between the two dominant species and that’s used by the author to develop a story that is full of adventure but also interpersonal bonds. In the first book, the sexual component was remarkable and remains in this sequel, although less heavy-handed, strengthening the bonds within Grant Taylor’s group. However, the situation expands thanks to the alliance between humans and dire wolves which leads to the birth of friendly relationships between individuals of the two species which are important in the plot.
However, relationships are difficult between dire wolves and sabertooth lions, and this also becomes a problem for humans, who are forced to pick a side. Humans feel the growing tension between the two Zona’s dominant species and the reader discovers the developments of that situation through conversations between humans and dire wolves. In the first book, there were already moments of struggle for survival and in this sequel, they become even more brutal. This is not a series for kids or easily impressionable readers.
There’s still an element linked to the secrecy of the entire operation in the part in which Max Volkov sets up a new expedition to bring supplies to the group that remained in Zona. In the first book, the part linked to the interests towards Zona seemed like a spy story while in this sequel, there’s a strong ecological element because there’s a wish to preserve that unique ecosystem, which would be destroyed if its existence became public knowledge.
“Zona II: Sabertooth Uprising” confirms that the target is above all fans of adventure stories. The story of the lost world is adapted to the current age with issues such as conflict and ecological conservation. For these reasons, it’s a series you can like even if generally you don’t read science fiction. It’s available on Amazon USA, UK, and Canada.