I’ve mentioned previously the sheer number of shared world series I’ve encountered from the eighties, and I know there’s probably more that I don’t know or am less familiar with. Or just wasn’t thinking of at the time for the previously listed reasons. However, the concept of multiple authors contributing to a single world and storyline hasn’t gone away, it’s just been less obvious in later decades. However, what I’ve got today isn’t even ten years old. Published in 2011, this is Exiled: Clan of the Claw.
Bill Fawcett has created a different what-if scenario than we’re accustomed to seeing. This isn’t “what if the Confederate States won the war” or “what if Hitler won” or anything like that. To create a very different Earth from any we’ve ever known, Fawcett asks “what if the asteroid didn’t hit and didn’t wipe out the dinosaurs?” Following this logic, the saurians would continue to evolve and eventually become the dominant intelligent species on the planet. This includes the reptiles’ ability to paralyze prety with their gaze, expanded into powerful mental skills to oppress and subdue others. They call themselves Liskash.
Of course, the reptilian domination wouldn’t prevent mammals from evolving either, and though they are not in charge, they develop their own intelligence to deal with the balance of power. These catlike creatures call themselves Mrem, and they are the protagonists of this story. Because of their fur and greater resistance to cold, Mrem are more heavily concentrated in the northern regions, as compared to the Liskash in the hotter, southern regions. Although, of course, some intrepid pioneer Mrem have steadily expanded southward for more territory and greater challenge…
As things go the ice age is ending, the glaciers are retreating, and sea levels are rising. The unthinkable happens when the waters surge through a gateway into a large, fertile valley, turning it into the New Sea. (On our human maps, you might notice this listed as the Mediterranean Sea.) Now those Mrem who are south of the new body of water find themselves vulnerable, cut off from the bulk of their species and likely to be easy prey for the Liskash. And so they undertake a great Trek, intending to roam around the New Sea and make it back to safer territory.
Exiled: Clan of the Claw features four stories by five well-known authors, each telling a small anecdote of the Trek. And really, I picked up the series on the strength of the authors’ names. S.M. Stirling, Harry Turtledove, John Ringo, Jody Lynn Nye, and Michael Z. Williamson are all skilled writers whose contributions are credits to their names.
Like many shared worlds, the stories here go in chronological order, which can be noted by casual references to previous events. Each story focuses on a different set of Mrem and Liskash, relieving authors of the need to be true to characters created by another. The tales differ slightly in tonality and focus, but the overall quality is such that these are subtle and not jarring. In fact, the only truly jarring note in the whole book was the random obviously gay Mrem. I suppose I can appreciate his inclusion, although it just seemed overly heavily emphasized. I have nothing against gay characters, I just felt that the guy was something of a stereotype used to hammer home the point that He Is Gay. Kind of like the “teenage girl” in that story who is a self-centered brat with a hardcore crush that is really played up.
In the end, these are fairly minor complaints. I enjoyed Exiled: Clan of the Claw and I’m glad I was finally able to find a copy, having had book two for some time now.
One note: I’m classing this under science fiction because while the most proper designation is probably historical fiction, I have a hard time mentally considering this as such because it’s prehistory for us. It’s very human-centric of me, but that’s what I am. And as for fantasy versus science fiction, the mental powers that are displayed (magic, if you will) feel more fantastical than scientific. But what Exiled really reads like is one of the older books from before fantasy had its own genre, where there were no real hard and fast divisions between the two, and a book could have elements of both. So, in light of that, I will count it as science fiction for the sake of my categories.