INVASION AMERICA 2: ON THE RUN: THE LOST YEARS

Author: Dan Simmons

Roc Books / 272 pages / November 1998

ISBN: 0451456939

Let’s count the strikes On the Run had going against it from the start, in my book. There’s the fact that it is a novelization of an animated series. It is the second instalment — I never saw the first. It is Young Adult material, and I think we all know how I feel about that. And, it’s associated with DreamWorks, who hasn’t come knocking at my door.

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So. Why did I enjoy On the Run so much?

Maybe because it is pure entertainment. Maybe because it is a wilder ride than any of the roller coasters cramming the airwaves lately. Or, just maybe because it is a tale where you can feel good rooting for the good guys and feel wholly justified in wanting the bad guys wiped off the face of the Earth.

Then again, it could be that this is adventure in the grand tradition, with writing that draws you in and a plot that keeps you riveted.

That’s a rare enough combination these days.

For those who, like me, missed volume one, the title should be explanation enough. America has been invaded by an alien race. It’s just that almost no one but the invaders are aware of this. In fact, the ruler of Tyrus (the invading planet in question) was unaware of the invasion until it began. That’s because he isn’t really needed or wanted in the new power structure.

There you have the crux of the story. Cale-Oosha is the major party On the Run. He isn’t alone, though. And he isn’t giving up the fight to stop the invasion.

FBI agents, Native Americans, epidemiologists, and college students — it’s a colourful cast, and that’s not even including Tyrusians, good and bad. They scramble from space ships to big cities to mesa country, learning how to survive along the way.

Golden manages to fill in the flesh of her characters with a few words, making each distinctive in a crowd that could easily have become merely a list of credits. Yes, it is safe for young adults, but the relationships, as well as the plot, are developed fully and realistically.

That fully developed plot is a good one, too. Biogenetics and big slavering monsters. Mental powers and heavy arms. Trust and betrayal. What more could you ask for? Keep it to yourself. The story lines start out impossibly far-flung and pull together naturally, bypassing miraculous coincidence for logic.

It’s not destined to be bound in oxblood leather and produced by Masterpiece Theatre. Just enjoy it. Think of it as a modern Lensman, here on Earth.