Book Review: Occupied Earth

Occupied Earth
Edited By: Richard Brewer and Gary Phillips 
Published by: Polis Books
Release date: October 13, 2015
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
352 pages
Source: galley kindly provided by publisher

There are plenty of first contact stories in science fiction, and there are plenty of alien invasion stories too.  But I’ve never seen a book quite like Occupied Earth which is a collection of short stories by different authors about humanity living as a conquered race under the alien Mahk-Ra.  I chose to review this book because I was intrigued to see how the different authors would envision life moving on under such an occupation.  This multi-faceted collection has it all: “fighting, chases, escapes, revenge, true love…”  Okay, so it’s not at all like The Princess Bride, but Occupied Earth does have all that plus collaborators, resistance fighters, traitors, and regular working people just trying to get by. 

The story that best shows what life is like for conquered humanity is the second story in the collection, “Do No Harm,” by Rachel Howzell Hall and David W. Hall.  During a busy night, Joseph, an EMT, gets called with his partner to a crime scene in which a human has shot a Mahk-Ra.  Despite the justified nature of the shooting, protocol demands the Mahk-Ra be cared for first.  The decisions that confront Joseph and the rest of humanity on a daily basis brought me deep not only into his story but into the world.

“Letting Go the Ghosts,” by Marsheila Rockwell and Jeffrey J. Mariotte, also spoke to me.   What better eyes to look through for perspective on the aftermath of alien invasion than Native American eyes that have seen it before?  Kimberly Greymountain is a curator at the Taovayan Cultural Center, which preserves the Wichita people’s history and cultural artifacts.  The Mahk-Ra make an offer to buy the land on which it stands for the minerals that lie deep beneath.  Should the tribal elders make a deal with another conquering force?  Will it turn out better than other deals have historically?  How long do the ghosts of the past linger?

The other two stories that really made this collection worth reading for me were “Traitor,” by Adam Lance Garcia and the “Hunter X” frame story, presented in three parts by the editors, Brewer and Phillips.  “Traitor” follows the trajectory of “the woman who sold the world.”  I loved that the author never blatantly comes out and says who she was before the invasion, but gives the reader enough clues to figure it out.    Traitor or not, Joanne Adeline is a woman you don’t want to cross.  “Hunter X” was the perfect frame to set the other stories within not because the reader gets a great overview of the new government and how the humans and Mahk-Ra have had to learn to work together, but also because it gives at least some hope that the humans have a chance.

“Down, but not defeated.  Resistance is all.”       



For years, writers and filmmakers have speculated about the possibility of the Earth being invaded by aliens from another planet. But what if the aliens have been watching us, infiltrating us via human collaborators, or even surgically altering themselves to look human?

Occupied Earth is a groundbreaking anthology that explores the idea of what the world would look like years after its conquest. 20 years after a successful invasion by the Makh-Ra, humanity still exists, only it has become subservient to a race of occupiers who govern the devastated planet. But, as much at things continue with some sense of normalcy, something has happened in the Mahk-Ra’s empire. Earth, once considered a strategic beachhead of major importance to the Empire, has been downgraded in its value. Things are starting to degrade. Our planet is the last place any self-respecting Mahk-Ra officer wants to be assigned. Yet, despite everything, life continues.

These stories bring us face to face with annihilation — and show how we can pull ourselves back from the brink. Featuring Rachel Howzell Hall, Lisa Morton, Matthew V. Clemens, Howard Hendrix, Nathan Walpow and more, OCCUPIED EARTH is coming. Stay safe. Stay strong. Survive at all costs.