Cover image of "Generation of Vipers," an alien invasion novel

Fair warning: before you read Generation of Vipers, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of Wherever Seeds May Fall, the 15th entry in Peter Cawdron’s long-running series of standalone First Contact novels. (I reviewed it at One surprise after another in this brilliant First Contact novel.) It’s possible to read Generation of Vipers on its own as simply another alien invasion novel, but reading the prequel will make the experience a whole lot more enjoyable. You’ll have a head start on meeting the central characters of the story, and you can plunge right in to unraveling the plot. Seeds was brilliant, and together with Vipers the two stories constitute a truly outstanding contribution to the science fiction genre.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The alien invasion humanity feared has arrived

In Seeds, we followed the main thread of the story through the experiences of Dr. Katherine (“Kath”) McKenzie and Nathan Landis, then an astronaut with the rank of colonel in the US Air Force. They reappear soon in Vipers and take their positions on center stage. But first we meet again with Angry Andy Anderson, a vitriolic right-wing podcaster who saw the light in Seeds and now rails against the purveyors of conspiracy theories and the ignorant people who swallow them. We also follow the lives of Jorge Rodríguez Mendez and his adopted 10-year-old daughter, Veronica. Jorge is an aging Mexican fisherman who became a hero in the planet’s disastrous brush with the alien vessel Anduru. They’ll all play leading roles in humanity’s response to an alien invasion triggered by a second alien vessel discovered in orbit around the sun.

Generation of Vipers (First Contact #19) by Peter Cawdron (2022) 436 pages ★★★★★

Aerial photo of Houston, Texas, location of the attack in this alien invasion novel
Imagine an alien invasion centered on Houston, Texas, America’s fifth largest metro area with a population topping seven million. Image: Aerial Photography Company, Houston

Aliens are on the loose in Houston

Early in Generation of Vipers, waves of emergency vehicles race toward the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The official story is that they’re responding to “an active shooter.” But there’s no shooter. Instead, unaccountably, alien monsters have suddenly appeared and are killing everyone in sight, destroying every obstacle in their way. When Kath McKenzie arrives on the scene, she discovers that the problem is even more serious than it appears. Because some of the victims show evidence they died by some sort of microbial infection, not physical force. And it becomes her mission to explain the problem to the military, which is on the verge of making the problem worse.

The US military is gathering its forces near Houston to surround and contain the aliens. Now-Brigadier General Nathan Landis is in charge. Despite contrary orders from the newly-elected right-wing president, Landis is determined to muster overwhelming force before going on the attack. But the alien perimeter is expanding at an alarming rate—and now even he is considering the use of nuclear weapons. Kath knows using nukes would spread the microbes in the atmosphere throughout the United States and is desperate to stop him.

An outstanding job, solidly grounded in science-based speculation

The action comes thick and fast as the perspective shifts among Kath McKenzie, Nathan Landis, Angry Andy Anderson, and Jorge Rodríguez Mendez. Cawdron does an outstanding job building suspense as the story rushes to a satisfying but surprising conclusion. “Alien invasion” is a familiar trope in science fiction. Cawdron builds his own unique twist on the theme—and it works.

Like all of Cawdron’s novels, Generation of Vipers ends with an extensive author’s note. He explains the scientific basis for all the key authorial decisions he made in depicting the aliens and the progress of the invasion. It’s not to be missed.

You’ll find this book in good company at Great military science fiction.

I reviewed the prequel to this novel, Wherever Seeds May Fall – First Contact #15 (One surprise after another in this brilliant First Contact novel).

This is one of the novels in Peter Cawdron’s insightful First Contact book series.

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