Wergen: The Alien Love War (NewCon Press)
Mercurio D. Rivera
Abyss & Apex was the first place to ever publish something by Mercurio D Rivera: his “Snatch Me Another,” which you will find in our 2008 archives. I knew he was going places when I read it, and this knowledge was reinforced when the story made the Locus Recommended Reading list that year.
Since then Rivera’s meteoric rise to prominence as a hard science-fiction writer has hardly been a surprise, and he’s become a good friend of the magazine. I believed he had reached the pinnacle of success as a short-story science-fiction writer to have one of his alien Wergen actually featured on the cover of the last Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology that the late, great Gardner’s Dozois put together. Surely, I thought, his aliens were now as familiar to science fiction readers as the creatures of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Farscape were to television and movie fans.
But with this book, Rivera has carved himself an amazing place in SF&F history. The Love War is a fix-up novel, where graduated short-story beads are strung into the coherent necklace of a novel-sized story arc. And it’s his finest work.
I really don’t want to give the twists and turns away, but I will tell you that it starts out with aliens who are actually more emotional than we are, and their main emotion around humans is an utter slavish devotion. Imagine humanity being followed around by alien emotional adolescents who are constantly professing their undying love for us and wanting to know if there is anything — anything at all! — that they can do for us. Now imagine you have someone who is desperately in love with you who keeps following you around and bugging you constantly to pay attention to them, to let them do anything for you, to let them LOVE YOU. Yeah, annoying as all get out.
The Wergen have tech that we desperately need, but humanity can’t get enough volunteers to put up with these creatures that adore us so much and think we are so beautiful that they feel physical pain when they’re separated from us. Therefore Earth gives incentives to those who will volunteer to have Wergen companions, and assigns Wergens to individual humans. Needless to say, however platonic these lopsided relationships are, actual human/Wergen friendships are rare. But we need their tech, and with their seedships and force fields we can colonize our entire solar system, as well as planets around distant stars.
The interspecies relationship goes sour when the majority of Wergens on their home world decide that humans are a threat to them and synthesize an inhalant to get rid of the biochemicals that cause them to react to us. (You did notice the word “war” in the title of the book, right? Freedom from love!)
There’s so much more to it than that. I don’t wish to give too much away except to say that Rivera is a kick-ass writer who knows exactly what he’s doing and never disappoints. Give it a try.