So what is this strange planet in The Children of Amargosa where our two protags find themselves running for their lives? And why do these aliens want it so badly?
Well, Amargosa is an Earth-like planet with rich soil, abundant wildlife, and a stable climate. Everything Amargosa’s parent world, Mars, is not. About a century old, Amargosa is home to around one million people when JT Austin finds himself stranded there. There are some cities, including one purely industrial city in the northern polar region and an isolated scientific center near the equator. Everyone else lives in a temperate section of one continent, an area roughly the size of the western United States.
The native flora tends toward a reddish color, so those flying over the Central Plains, where most of the farming takes place, find it odd to see patches of yellow and green where humans have tilled the soil. The wildlife is unusual as well. Lycanths, so named because of their resemblance to werewolves, roam the plains in search of livestock (and, according to urban legend, small children). In at least one encounter with the beasts, JT and a companion suspect they might be intelligent to a degree, if only like chimps or gorillas. Lycanths hunt mostly gosalope, deer-like animals that stand on two legs and propel themselves with a powerful third one. Like their counterparts on Earth, the wildebeest, deer, antelope, and gazelle, they’re very skittish. One actually corners JT in Gimme Shelter.
Meanwhile, the locals raise moosalo, big, shaggy beasts that look like a cross between a woolly mammoth and a buffalo, for meat and milk. But Davra, who literally falls to Amargosa as the invasion begins, discovers more disturbing animals – squonks, who inhabit rail tunnels and sewers, and wuzzles, who eat squonks. Both are rodent-like and not very pleasant to encounter. Both make rats look almost cuddly and warm by comparison.
But it’s Amargosa’s isolation that both endangers the planet and makes its culture. Most of the farmers hate their Martian overlords, seeing their wealth being sucked off “beneath the domes” while they toil away. It’s no wonder that Lucius Kray, the constable with delusions of being a warlord, is able to form an independent militia so quickly. Anything that screws Mars for Amargosa is seen as a good thing by the locals.
But with only one orbital station and a single hypergate linking it to civilization, Amargosa makes a ripe target for the planet-hungry Gelt, who, like humans, need more room to feed their populations. For some, the Gelt are a ready-made enemy to embody their fears. For others, Kray’s scheme is simply cutting off Amargosa’s collective nose despite its face. It’s already an uneasy status quo when the alien capsules start falling. The invasion merely makes things uglier.
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