Two Outcasts. One goal. Stop Earth.
The Lenticular Series is a galaxy-spanning space opera trilogy that begins with Traitor’s Run.
Traitor’s Run and Traitor’s Bargain out now
Traitor’s War out 1 June 2024
A potent SF depiction of humanity victimizing peaceful aliens.Kirkus Review
Earth’s Hegemony controls the surrounding alien civilisations with ruthless force. Its aim: dominate the galaxy to protect humanity.
On Earth, disgraced pilot Rhees Lowrans is thrust into a job she doesn’t want. She sees firsthand how the Hegemony will sacrifice anything – including her – to keep Earth safe.
In the Lenticular, Udun – one of the empathic Kresz – is on a secret mission when he learns of the Hegemony’s expansion into nearby space. But his warnings are ignored and the Hegemony invades his world and mutilates any Kresz who oppose them.
Can these two outsiders stand against the might of the Hegemony? And will the human race survive if they succeed?
… wild and expansive, and just so utterly out there.Aurealis Magazine
Extracts and Information
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A potent SF depiction of humanity victimizing peaceful aliens.
An Earth-based space empire exploits and enslaves Milky Way civilizations for its own selfish benefit while a crablike alien refugee and an outcast human warrior try to oppose its latest crimes.
Stevenson’s far-future SF series opener focuses on evil space invaders who happen to be human—an order called the Hegemony, which arose in the aftermath of a traumatic but victorious (though scarcely described in any detail) interplanetary war.
Hegemony policy assures the safety of humankind by incorporating spacegoing alien civilizations in what is supposedly a protective alliance akin to the storied Federation of the Star Trek franchise. In fact, the oppressive arrangement subjugates and weakens the Hegemony’s coalition planets, making them little more than Earth vassals and underclasses.
Rhees Lowrans, an eager human fighter pilot for the Hegemony, accidentally causes the death of a close comrade in a training exercise and is punished with a transfer to the much-disliked intelligence branch. There, she learns inside dirt about a mystery attack on nonhuman colonies in which Hegemony military might did nothing to avert the slaughter of 13 billion aliens.
In a parallel narrative (barely intersecting in this installment), Udun is a rare, space-traveling member of the Kresz—intelligent humanoid arthropods (“like a cross between a crab and a lobster but with only two arms and two legs, though these were strangely jointed and much longer than a human’s”) with an isolationist culture.
Udun’s unheard-of voyages beyond Kresz territory give him ominous clues of an approaching crisis, but he is unprepared for the ruthless barbarism of the Hegemony. The captivating story ends at a turning point, and readers will eagerly look forward to the sequel.
The author’s gift for xenofiction matches that of genre grandmasters like Hal Clement, Larry Niven, and C.J. Cherryh. Stevenson gets under the alien skins (or carapaces) and unique emotional makeup of the Kresz characters to the point that readers begin to see the ultimately amoral Homo sapiens as grotesque and “other” as any bug-eyed monster on the cover of yesteryear’s SF pulps. Comparisons between the Hegemony’s malevolence and real-world developments should be evident even without the words Homeland Security ever being deployed.
Review by Lewis Fisher
It’s been a long time since I’ve come across a space opera this exciting, this wild and expansive, and just so utterly out there. Traitor’s Run, Stevenson’s first in The Lenticular series, creates a galactic set like no others—we are not alone, and humanity will subjugate by any means necessary.
Our main characters—one human, one a telepathic species of pacifists, are original, funny and compelling, and wrestle with what it means to be part of a society, and how that society can, and should function when faced with an entire universe.
This novel sets up a lot of what’s to come with the remaining two titles in the trilogy. Each scene and plot point furthers the story, raising questions that will, no doubt, find answers. It also raises questions about the way we might end up if we ever migrate to space: are we doomed to be a violent species, as our storied and bloodied history on Earth reflects, or do we have the opportunity to move beyond this?
What’s most intriguing about this story are the non-human characters. It’s a well-established trait within science fiction that humans will either become nefarious or altruistic, often with shades of grey between, but often non-human species aren’t given this treatment. Our Kresz protagonist shows that machinations cannot and will not be limited to the human race and offers a look at what it would be like to encounter homo sapiens out there in the cold dark.
You’ll race through the book to spend more time with these characters, to know and understand more about them, and might feel a pang of sadness when the reading is finished.
This was my first ever book by Keith Stevenson and, if this is anything to go by, I’m very excited to dive into his back catalogue and escape Earth, even if only for a little while.
Trent Jamieson, award-winning author of The Stone Road
Keith brings energy and invention to one of my favourite genres. Space Opera done right. Intelligent, thrilling with heart.
Dirk Strasser, author of Conquist
Keith Stevenson throws us headfirst into an epic galactic opera in Traitor’s Run, kicking off The Lenticular Trilogy. Picture a universe jam-packed with exotic alien cultures, space trips, and a whole lot of political drama. Right at the centre? The Hegemony – humans playing both heroes and baddies. Dive deep, and you’ve got Rhees Lowrans, a pilot with some heavy baggage, and Udun, this wild empathic lobster-like alien from the Kresz, trying to figure out the massive space politics game.
The beauty of it? It isn’t just about strange planets or flashy space wars. Stevenson gives each alien world its own soul and backstory. We see everything through Rhees and Udun’s eyes – the good, the bad, and the cosmic. The plot is huge, but the two main characters keep things grounded. Their stories pack an emotional punch.
So, if you’re into epic space tales with a fresh spin, Traitor’s Run should be your next binge. It’s got drama, heart, and makes you think twice about where humans fit in the universe. And there’s more to come in this series! I can’t wait!
Nathan Burrage, author of The Hidden Keystone
Traitor’s Run is the first instalment in The Lenticular Trilogy by Australian author Keith Stevenson, and it has all the trappings of science fiction that you’d expect; a vast galactic canvas with a myriad of extremely well-drawn alien societies, interstellar travel, and plenty of political machinations. The central administration of humanity’s Hegemony is fixated on controlling all sentient species it encounters, although not without reason, as we learn early on that humanity was almost wiped out in a war with another species at some point in the past.
The story is told from two points of view: Rhees Lowrans is a Fleet pilot whose miscalculation during an exercise costs the life of her lover. Dismissed from Fleet in disgrace, her father’s connections gift her a second chance in the Hegemony Diplomatic Corps (HDC). The HDC is part intelligence agency, part black ops and humanity’s first line of defence against extraterrestrial threats. Rhees soon comes to despise Troels Volmar, the Comptroller of HDC and his ‘ends justifies the means’ approach to diplomacy.
The second viewpoint is from Udun, an alien from the Kresz homeworld. (Picture a lobster in the shape of a very large human with a cobra-like hood that can engorge from the back of its neck and you get the idea.) The Kresz are a highly empathetic species, which means they sense the emotions of other Kresz nearby and participate in a world mind whilst retaining their individuality. The Kresz are an insular species and want nothing to do with the Hegemony, but the HDC has other ideas.
Udun is unlike most Kresz in that he is interested in other species and yearns to spend more time off the Kresz homeworld. And here we encounter one of the key themes in Traitor’s Run; both Rhees and Udun are ostracised for not conforming to the expectations of their societies. While their respective journeys do not intersect – at least not in this instalment – there are obvious parallels including the inevitable collision between independent thinkers and heavy-handed regimes. Thought-provoking material indeed.
I find some science fiction can be difficult to engage with, particularly where high science concepts dominate or the canvas is so vast it inevitably comes at the expense of characterisation. However, I didn’t find that with Traitor’s Run at all. Stevenson’s pacing is brisk and his tendency towards a modest level of description and short paragraphs worked well as I read the novel on my Kindle.
Carol Ryles, award-winning author of The Eternal Machine
The Hegemony is a human-led federation of worlds that safeguards its dominance by subjugating potential opponents. When the insular Kresz – a crustacean/insectile humanoid species – refuses to join, the Hegemony treats them as a threat. The subsequent drama unfolds from mostly two points of view: Rhees Lowrans, a talented albeit disgraced human pilot who blames herself for the death of a loved one; and Udun, a Kresz who prefers to live offworld, a rare trait amongst his species. As each is drawn into separate conflicts – ones that threaten their lives and challenge their beliefs – they are forced to make choices that were previously unthinkable.
There is much to like about this novel, including the representations of good and evil in both humans and aliens, and also the strong female characters working in institutions that, thus far, appear to be dominated by males. The novel’s strengths lie with Stevenson’s thoughtful and intelligent depictions of various aliens and their cultures, particularly the worldview, religion and social mores of the empathic Kresz. The narrative voices are successfully character specific, though can be dry at times and often remained so during weapon-to-weapon conflict and scenes of emotional turmoil. Readers looking for classic space opera with a twist will enjoy this novel. I will certainly be looking out for Book 2.