Jean Johnson's first novel in an explosive new science fiction trilogy set in the world of the national bestselling Theirs Not to Reason Why series—set two-hundred years earlier, at the dawn of the First Salik War…
Born into a political family and gifted with psychic abilities, Jacaranda MacKenzie has served as a border-watcher and even spent time as a representative on the United Planets Council. Now she just wants to spend her days in peace and quiet as a translator—but the universe has other plans…
Humans have long known that they would encounter more alien species, and while those with precognitive abilities agree a terrible war is coming, they do not agree on who will save humanity—a psychic soldier or a politician.
But Jackie is both.
After she is pressured into rejoining the Space Force to forestall the impending calamity, Jackie makes an unsettling discovery. Their new enemy, the Salik, seem to be rather familiar with fighting Humans—as if their war against humanity had already begun…
About the Author
Jean Johnson is the national bestselling author of the Theirs Not to Reason Why series and the Guardians of Destiny novels.
Read an Excerpt
JANUARY 3, 2287 (COMMON ERA)
THE TOWER, KAHO’OLAWE, EARTH
Her uniform still fit. Mostly.
Jackie could see a blurred version of herself in the semipolished steel doors of the elevator car. Gray military uniform, black and blue stripes on the sleeves and pant legs. Black for the Space Force, blue for the Navy, gray for the Special Forces, the actual branch she had belonged to, once upon a time. A slight hint of red to her tanned face, proof of a few hours too many soaking up the sun on the local beaches over the holidays. Long brown curls coiled and pinned at the back of her head, below her officer’s cap. Shiny twin silver bars on her lapels, shoulder boards, and shirt collar proclaiming her old rank of Lieutenant Commander. Medals decorating her chest . . . and the buttons of her jacket straining to keep the coat properly closed.
Of course, it had been a decade since Jacaranda MacKenzie had been a Lieutenant Commander in the United Planets Space Force. For half of that decade, her job had been to sit in a chair and translate speeches for politicians . . . and for the other half, it had been to sit in a chair as a politician, except for when she was standing and making speeches.
Exercise was therefore an imperative in her off-hours: mixed martial arts lessons three times a week, jogging every few days whenever she had free time and flat roads or good beaches, and, of course, swimming and surfing whenever possible, though that felt more like playing around than a proper workout. But it had been ten years since she had to stay in top shape, and the inevitable encroaching of middle age plus a decade of desk work had added a bit of padding to her frame.
So, if she didn’t breathe too deeply, her jacket still fit.
It didn’t help that she’d been given just four days’ notice of her reactivation, from New Year’s Eve to now. That had barely been enough time to shut down her newly opened apartment on O’ahu, repacking the few boxes she had unpacked. Just days before, she had moved out of her Councilor quarters on Kaho’olawe, only to have to repack everything. All but her most immediate needs were now tucked into a storage unit in Honolulu.
Four days was barely enough time to repack and store things. It was not enough time to order and receive a new uniform. If she really was being reactivated for duty, she would have those new uniforms soon, but not right now. Right now, she had to remember to breathe lightly, and find an excuse to unbutton her jacket if she had to sit down.
The elevator stopped.
Taking a shallow breath to brace herself, Jackie stepped out of the lift and into a lobby-like space on the eighteenth floor. The sun didn’t fall directly into the room through the greenish-tinted windows, but it did illuminate enough that the overhead lights weren’t really needed. The waiting area held several potted plants, a dozen chairs and padded benches, a watercooler, flatpics of tropical flowers on the walls, a single, wood-paneled door aside from the metal ones for the lift . . . and three people, besides herself.
Two of those were occupying a couple of the chairs, seated with a pair of empty seats between them in the way that said they were either polite strangers or mild acquaintances. The nearest one was a tallish, pale-skinned fellow with long, light blond hair pulled back in a ponytail and hazel eyes who sat with his elbows on his knees, clad in a neat, cream-colored suit with a pale yellow shirt decorated in white flowers with little green leaves.
The other seated figure was a woman with a complexion more olive than pale. She, too, sat there in a civilian suit, though hers was a dark, rich brown with a knee-length skirt and a plain pink shirt under the jacket. Her hair brushed her shoulders in big, dark, wavy curls, her features more Hispanic than Caucasian. Both of them looked around Jackie’s age, midthirties.
A somewhat-younger-looking woman, the kind with classic African features, stood by the green-tinted windows. She was dressed in the blues of a well-fitted Space Force Navy uniform. Like Jackie’s, her hair had been pinned up off her collar, but hers were neat columnar dreadlocks pulled back into a thick bun at the back of her head. Unlike Jackie, her overall figure was tall and slender.
The waiting room was high enough in the Tower that the view looked out over the edge of the caldera toward the northwestern side of the island. That was the side where everything had been left natural, an island desert made of reddish soil, scrubby sage-green bushes, and very few palm trees. Kaho’olawe was in the rain shadow of the other islands, and under normal circumstances could not support a lot of life. Not on its untouched side.
As a native Hawai’ian, Jackie thought it was beautiful. The eastern sides of the isles were lush and green, the most commonly seen version in all the tourism brochures, but not the rain-shadowed sides. Personally, she loved both views, and moved to stand by the windows so she could look out at the stark, colorful landscape, too.
“Whoever thought this was a tropical paradise?” the other woman murmured, gesturing at it briefly before refolding her arms. “Look at it. Dry as dust, most of it.”
“The island’s fine,” Jackie murmured back. “It just needs a little more water and some tender care to make it thrive. Like everything else in life.”
“In other words, giving it a little aloha?” the other lieutenant commander observed dryly.
“That’s why it’s called Aloha City,” Jackie agreed. Everyone knew the story of how the capital had been picked.
Back in the year 2113, when the various governments of the world had argued, even nearly fought, for the honor of hosting the capital of the then newly formed United Planets government, the natives of the Hawai’ian Islands had worked together to put an end to the arguing. The concept was aloha, which meant more than just hello, or good-bye, or even I love you. It also meant bringing people together in compassion and cooperation. To share, rather than divide. To welcome, rather than to spurn.
Her mother’s ancestors had pointed out that the nearly barren, mostly unused island of Kaho’olawe was about as far away from any large landmass—and thus any big political influence—as any location could possibly get, while still being reasonably close to major metropolitan conveniences on the other islands, such as nearby Maui, O’ahu, and the Big Isle. The land, they said, would be leased at generously low rates, and the architecture would be built to blend into the southern side’s augmented landscape from the ridgeline down to the shoreline, providing a relaxing setting for weary civil servants to enjoy at the end of each stressful day.
According to Jackie’s late grandfather, a Councilor who had served for many years, the real selling point had been reminding everyone that it was a tropical paradise, and thus an ideal location for dignitaries to visit. That, he swore, had finally convinced the major political powers to agree to place the capital there. The idea of getting to spend time there during the Fellowship Lottery had convinced the general populations of the world as well. All-expenses-paid visits to a tropical paradise certainly did not hurt . . . but those buildings were on the other side of the caldera from the waiting room’s current northward view of desert-dry hills and tufts of bushes.
While irrigation ruled the southern half, the locals had encouraged the new government to take over only half of the island, leaving the other half untouched for their continuing cultural use. They had even footed the bill for the desalination plants that had turned the lower half of the island into the irrigated tropical paradise her paternal grandfather had so admired during his years as Councilor for Scotland back in his own day. All that, in return for a very modest set of rental fees and very strict regulations on what could be built, where it could be built, and from what materials. Southern Kaho’olawe looked like a lush, green, tropical paradise, a flower-filled, greenery-cloaked delight to the senses of its many visitors. The barren northern side of the isle . . . was its true face.
“I’d almost rather be looking at star charts.” The other woman sighed. She had a faint accent, one that Jackie couldn’t yet place.
The angle was wrong to read the other woman’s nameplate. Jackie gave up trying to peek discreetly at it and just used the title that went with that blue uniform and the twin silver bars on those collar points. “I’d rather look at all of this, Lieutenant Commander. I spent nearly five years touring the outer edges of the system, back when I last served. This is a lot more colorful than staring at black space broken only by the tiny pinpricks of distant stars.”
“I just like the view of the capital side better,” the lieutenant commander demurred. “Even if it’s tiny, compared to my home town of Yaounde—Yaounde Prefecture, inside Cameroon Province,” she clarified.
“I’m local-born, so, I guess I’m biased toward the dry as well as the green sides of the isles around here,” Jackie said, shrugging. Yaounde, Cameroon. That means her accent is Ewondo mixed with French, which was what was throwing me off, she decided.
She couldn’t blame the woman for calling Aloha City small. Compared to a landlocked metropolis like Yaounde, Aloha City had nowhere to sprawl once it had covered the southern shoreline, and there were prohibitions about building too high. All they could do was build down, hiding a lot of the city’s infrastructure that way.
There were a few exceptions on not building too high; the Tower was one, the tallest structure on the isle, though it was quite short compared to other buildings elsewhere on Earth. The heart of the Space Force had been designed to look like olivine, the green crystal that made certain nearby beaches famous for their green sand. The Lotus was another; more formally known as the Council Hall, it had been sculpted from white metal and golden glass as a giant sphere with a petal motif. There were a few other spectacular buildings, but most of the rest of the main buildings and support infrastructures were either designed to blend into the palm trees on the south side, or were built into and beneath the caldera here at the eastern end of the island but built to remain low in profile.
Subtly tugging at her Dress Grays to try to make the jacket front look straight and neat like the other woman’s deep blue version, Jackie wondered just what sort of place she’d be sleeping in by the end of tonight. Her orders had been to prepare for a long absence from her current home and to show up ready to travel at the Tower’s eighteenth-floor lobby. So here she was, luggage in her rental car in the garage down belowground, ready to . . . wait for more orders, apparently.
“View or no view, I do not like to be kept waiting.” The seated woman in the brown outfit sighed, echoing Jackie’s thoughts at least somewhat. Her accent held a Spanish lilt to it. “There are far more useful things I could be doing right now.”
The blond, long-haired male seated near her spoke up as well. “When I have to wai—”
The elevator dinged, cutting him off. All four of them turned to look at the metal doors. The man who emerged wore the same Navy-blue uniform that the woman did, if with only one bar for his insignia. A lieutenant.
He was fair, if somewhat tanned, his blond hair cropped in a buzz cut under his Dress cap. The newcomer’s strong stride spoke of constantly exercised strength, too; this was no desk jockey of a junior officer. Jackie would have bet from his tightly contained energy that he didn’t just go on long runs to stay in shape; he probably went on them to have fun, like she went surfing to have fun. Only much more frequently.
Her gaze moved to his upper chest. The name patch said Colvers. A glance at the woman showed her wearing two silver bars, a Lieutenant Commander, just like Jackie. The woman, whose name tag was now visible, was Mbani. The woman lifted her chin at the newcomer, greeting him with some familiarity.
“Happy New Year, Brad. I was wondering if it’d be you,” the lieutenant commander said.
“Ayinda,” he greeted her, then glanced at Jackie, his gaze first going to her naturally tanned, round face, to her reddish-brown curls pulled ruthlessly into a coiled braid, then down to her insignia and scattering of medals from her years of service. “Lieutenant Comman . . .”
Colvers stopped midword, staring at the Psi Division flashpatch affixed to her jacket’s right shoulder. The Radiant Eye was a symbol of the Psi League, but the military’s psychic corps had commandeered a version of it. There was the horizontal ellipsis outlining an eye shape, and a circle-within-a-circle for the iris and the pupil, plus the eight rays emanating from the center of the pupil. But the curves that outlined the outer edge of the iris were actually made from the curves of a laurel wreath. Eyeing the black-on-silver design of her flashpatch, the lieutenant’s lip curled up, and he backed up a step.
Jackie wasn’t unfamiliar with that kind of reaction to that particular patch on her sleeve. Mbani, however, arched her brow at that. “You have a problem with courtesy, Lieutenant?”
The youngish man looked like he wanted to say, Yes, very much so, at least where it pertained to Jackie in her not-quite-perfect uniform. But after a moment, he swallowed it down, though he remained several meters back. “Sir, no, sir. Greetings, Lieutenant Commander . . . MacKenzie,” he stated, his eyes flicking to her nameplate before shifting away again. “I just don’t know what a psi is doing here, mingling with Navy personnel.”
Jackie frowned in puzzlement. It was one thing to be startled by the presence of a psi in the military; there weren’t many who were willing to serve, despite the military desperately needing them to help thwart Grey visits. It was another to actively display dislike for someone with psychic abilities.
The other lieutenant commander lowered her brows as well, but it was the tall, pale blond man seated behind the lieutenant who spoke up at his words. His accent hinted at some Scandinavian country, and the polyglot portion of Jackie’s mind tried to identify it by that alone, a mental game she liked to play whenever she thought she’d be working with a certain group.
“I thought the Navy carried the psis around the system to scare off the Greys,” the seated man stated, his hazel eyes flicking from person to person before returning to the newcomer. “Why would the two groups not mingle? I think it would be difficult to carry them around without all the mingling.”
Finnish, Jackie pinpointed. Focusing on discerning the correct language kept her from dwelling on just how offensive the lieutenant’s attitude was. At least, I’m pretty sure his native tongue is Finnish, given how he pronounced around each time with the full diphthong they use for words like sauna.
“Because they don’t put psis on my ship,” Lieutenant Colvers stated bluntly. His accent was North American, possibly Canadian.
“Lock-and-Web it, Lieutenant,” Mbani ordered. Her accent was still very faint, but lyrical. The taller woman squared her shoulders, staring down the newcomer. “We don’t know what the mission is, or why any of us are here.”
Excerpted from "The Terrans"
Copyright © 2015 Jean Johnson.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Theirs Not to Reason Why...
“Both highly entertaining and extremely involving in equal measure.”—The Founding Fields
“Reminiscent of both Starship Troopers and Dune.”—Publishers Weekly
...and for Jean Johnson
“Jean Johnson’s writing is fabulously fresh, thoroughly romantic, and wildly entertaining.”—Jayne Ann Krentz, New York Times bestselling author
“Johnson spins an intriguing tale of destiny and magic.”—Robin D. Owens, RITA Award–winning author of Ghost Killer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It’s been a few months since I’ve read a science fiction novel. The Terrans was recommended to me a long time ago by my sister who is seldom wrong when it comes to book recommendations. I like science fiction but have to really be in the mood because sometimes the book may be more technical than I’m comfortable with, but The Terrans was a great balance of sci-fi imagery, technology, and a Star Trek like “going where no man has gone before” adventure. Jacaranda MacKenzie finds herself drawn back into service after retiring to her home in the Hawaiian islands. Having strong psychic tendencies, language skills, and proven psychic fighting techniques she is now on a mission as an Ambassador because her face was seen in psychic precognitive visions as being important in a future war. On their first mission they come upon an alien life form called the Salik who have human captives that her team must save. After reaching out telepathically to the humans leader Li’eth, she gathers that the Salik are not friendly aliens and in fact are only looking for their next meal. Humans are a tasty treat, and live humans are their preferred meal. Saving Li’eth and his team who are human, but not Terrans, is the first contact with another life force that the Terrans have ever had. They realize pretty quickly that both races have qualities that are needed on the other side and can make them allies in the war against the Salik. Jackie’s a really unique lady! She’s a linguist, and her thought process on how to quickly learn V’Dan (Li’eth’s planet, language, and people) teach the V’Dan her own language and then also the cultural proprieties could’ve been really time consuming. Thank goodness she was telepathic and could skip a lot of steps! She knew how to speak to people without being offensive, yet still be warm and welcoming. Underneath all of these kind of technical aspects to her personality was also the fact that she was mostly Polynesian. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a science fiction book that had a Hawaiian main character? It really added a level of depth to her understanding of body language due to her hula dancing training. Her ancestors way of story telling with body movements. I really enjoyed her character alot. Li’eth was also what you’d want your hero to look and act like. As the Captain of his ship he had a commanding presence. Like Jackie, he knew how to act with other cultures. He and Jackie had to interact with each other quite a bit as they were the two highest ranking people on the ship. She “downloaded” his language and had to do a Spock type mind meld to get that done relatively quick. The two of them talked telepathically and developed a bond that drew them together. It was natural that they started to have feelings for each other, however their titles made it a politically bad choice. As you would imagine with finding a new race of human’s there was a lot of political talk about how to handle what, who and how far. Even with that jargon, I still really enjoyed the story. I think as I read further into this series Jackie and Li’eth may grow on me even more. He did well in her world, I’m looking forward to seeing how Jackie handles immersion into his alien culture. If you like science fiction, I’d really recommend the Terrans. It’s a pretty soft immersion into this genre and is more story than techno jargon. The characters were developed well, and I really wanted to know more about them and follow their growth into the next book
I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Terrans, and the angle taken on a fairly typical military/space war story was unique and enjoyable to read. So the basic premise of The Terrans is pretty common military space fare. Humanity goes out to explore the stars, humanity discovers hostile alien species. But there are several interesting twists on this premise. First, the impending war with the Salik aliens is pre-cognitively predicted by earth psychics. Second, humanity doesn’t discover just one alien race, but two, and one of those species is rather familiar looking…. Third, this is actually more of a political novel than it is a military novel. At a time when humanity has reached a somewhat Star Trek like society, The Terrans is a book that takes a great deal of time to lay out the existing political structure of the United Terran Planets. That structure is often laid out in character monologues that almost feel like soliloquies. These monologues sometimes get a little tedious, but despite them I eagerly wanted to finish this book and am looking forward to reading the follow up book as well. The biggest downside to The Terrans is that there was actually very little real conflict, and I don’t mean that in terms of this as a space military novel, (thouth there is little conflict of that nature as well), but conflict as an actual story. The main conflict of the story is essentially of a political nature, but even that, despite the gravity of it, is rather minor. These points might make it sound like The Terrans isn’t worth a read, but I’d actually disagree. The thing is, it was really nice reading a book where there wasn’t some huge giant conflict with major struggle and death, war, et cetera. Instead, what we have here is a book that sets up what is coming in the trilogy, but in doing so is also quite interesting and enjoyable to read. The war is coming. That much is made clear in The Terrans, and it was really nice to read a book were a bunch of interesting things happened without all sorts of death, struggle and trauma.
I love the Science Fiction by Jean Johnson! I just wish there was more out already.
Cute story with multiple cultures. Politics and military interfaced PSI. What if?
I went straight into this after a re-read of the entire Theirs Not To Reason Why quintet. It was pretty clear from the outset how some things would go, not the least of which because the Theirs Not books sort of spoiled some of it (i.e. the eventual joining of the Terran United Planets to the Alliance is never in doubt...). But on the whole, it's right up there with her other work, both in this universe and in the Sons/Guardians of Destiny universe. Jean Johnson can weave steamy romance into a pairing that does little more than hold hands through most of the book. Her women are capable, intelligent, and incredibly ethical without being rigid, and the men are equally capable without needing to outshine OR hide in the shadows of the women, even willing to call out those women when needed. As usual, The Terrans will leave you eagerly pawing for more and, at least in my case, threatening dire imprecations if the next book isn't swiftly forthcoming.