The World Before (Wess'Har Series #3)

The World Before (Wess'Har Series #3)

by Karen Traviss

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Three strikingly different alien races
greeted the military mission from Earth
when it reached the planet called Bezer'ej.

Now one of the sentient species
has been exterminated—and two others
are poised on the brink of war.

The fragile bezeri are no more, due to the ignorant, desperate actions of human interlopers. The powerful wess'har protectors have failed in their sworn obligation to the destroyed native population—and the outrage must be redressed.

But those who are coming to judge from the World Before — the home planet, now distant and alien to the wess'har, whose ancestors left there generations ago — will not restrict their justice to the individual humans responsible for the slaughter. Earth itself must answer for the genocide. And its ultimate fate may depend on a dead woman: former police officer Shan Frankland, who became something far greater than human before destroying herself in the vast airless depths of space.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060541729
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/25/2005
Series: Wess'Har Series , #3
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 806,542
Product dimensions: 6.74(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Karen Traviss is a former defense correspondent and TV and newspaper journalist. She has worked in public relations for the police and local government, and has served in the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service and the Territorial Army. The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of City of Pearl, Crossing the Line, The World Before, Matriarch, Star Wars-Republic Commando: Hard Contact, Triple Zero, and Star Wars-Legacy of the Force: Bloodlines, she lives in Wiltshire, England.

Read an Excerpt

The World Before

By Karen Traviss

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Karen Traviss
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060541725

Chapter One

The Federal European Union greatly regrets the loss of life on Bezer'ej and the deaths of Superintendent Frankland and her ussissi aide. We condemn the actions of Commander Neville. Let me restate our position: we did not and would not sanction first-use of nuclear devices. As we have no effective military structure left on Umeh, there is no direct disciplinary action we can take against Commander Neville or the troops under her command; but they are now dismissed the service, and in the absence of FEU enforcement, they fall properly within the scope of your own judicial system as the protectors of the bezeri. Our representative Dr. Mohan Rayat will offer every cooperation.

Birsen Ertegun,
Foreign Minister, Federal European Union,
in a statement to the matriarchs of F'nar

F'nar, on Wess'ej, August 2376

Ade Bennett clung to his schedule twenty-five light-years from home in an alien city that was coated entirely in pearl.

He ran ten kilometers every morning at dawn and there was no reason to stop doing it just because the sun was now a different star and he was a prisoner of war. He pounded along the terraces of F'nar and down its stepped slopes.

Wherever the sun warmed smooth stone, the tem flies would congregate and deposit a thin layer of nacre. The iridescence was insect shit: Shan had found that funny, Aras said. She liked irony.

And she's dead. And it's all your fucking fault. You let her die.

Ade wanted to erase the final picture of her standing in the airlock, seconds from death. But it was the last scrap of her that he could still grasp, the memory of a woman he had never expected to love and to whom he had left everything unsaid. Something in him wouldn't let it go. He had decided to confront it instead.

The native wess'har paused to stare at him as he made his way down the terraces. Some acknowledged him with stiff nods of their sea horse heads. He was a POW in a city where he was regarded as a hero, but every day he was here served only to remind him that he was alive and Shan wasn't, and that he'd failed the basic heroic qualification of saving what you loved.

Sweat prickled its way down his back. He made his way through the alleys that honeycombed the lowest level of the city at the bottom of the encircling caldera. Beyond the city lay the irregular mosaic of fields and allotments that blended into the natural landscape, and beyond them were the plains that were arid in summer and covered with quick-growing vegetation in the brief, wet winter. F'nar had been built where it would have least impact rather than the most convenient location. Wess'har didn't seem to have the same priorities as humans.

Ade's route took him south of the caldera and up the rock face of a volcanic plateau that looked down onto the fields and the city itself. He liked climbing: it was one of the basic mountain warfare skills he had learned as a Royal Marine, and he could lose himself in absolute concentration. Freesoloing -- climbing without a partner or equipment -- was what he did best. That was just as well. There was no other way to climb on Wess'ej.

The rock face was smooth enough in places to attract the attention of tem flies and it was embossed with the pearly shit they'd laid down in the summer. If he half-closed his eyes, the reflected glare made it look like a snow-streaked peak back on Earth. He felt above his head with his right hand for a secure hold and locked his fingers into a horizontal crevice.

For a few moments he hung with his full weight on one hand, face against the cool gold rock, looking up at another hold thirty centimeters beyond his normal reach.

Combat boots were lousy for climbing. He jammed a toecap into a pocket of rock and transferred his weight, lunging upwards to grab hold of the outcrop above him. He knew every hold on the ascent now. He could climb it blindfolded.

What he really needed now was a good, solid hex to jam into the fissure above him to take a rope. He wondered if the wess'har might be able to make him some kit for the harder climbs. But for now he was reliant on his free-climbing skills alone, and he reached for another hold. The crevice accepted his fingers. It felt secure.

And the moment he hung all his weight on that hand, he knew that it wasn't.

The rock came away from the face and suddenly there was no sense of pressure under his fingertips at all.

He flailed, grabbing instinctively. He felt his right humerus snap as his arm clipped an overhang and he landed flat on his back with an involuntary shout as the air was slammed out of his lungs. He couldn't breathe. His head was filled with a single high note like a tuning fork's. For a second he wondered if it was his own scream of pain, but then he realized the noise was somehow inside his head, probably triggered by a shattered spine.

He'd been told that happened. It was funny how you could think rational things when you were dying.

Shit, shit, shit --

It occurred to him that he deserved to die anyway. Shan was dead, so if he died too, then at least he'd never have to wake up to that realization again. The pain filled his mouth. He had no idea how long he lay there paralyzed and wondering when the sky would go dark.

You can't die. Aras said so. But he was dying, he was sure of it: and now he wanted it over with.

Instead of being filled with creeping cold, he felt he was burning. Then the searing pain ebbed and he found himself breathing, first reflex, shallow gasps while he tested his ribs, and then deep breaths.


Excerpted from The World Before by Karen Traviss Copyright © 2005 by Karen Traviss.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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World Before (Wess'Har Series #3) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Shrike58 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The wheels of doom continue to slowly grind forward in this portion of the series, as the impact of just what has happened to the Bezer'ej in "Crossing the Line" begins to wash over all concerned. The real climax of this book has less to do with Shan Frankland (despite her stunning reemergence) then it does with how Frankland's companions, Aras and Sgt. Ade Bennett, deal with their excruciatingly complicated mutual sense of obligation, and how justice is exacted from Lindsay Neville and Mohan Rayat for their genocidal actions.
Pandababy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"What am I then, then?" asked Sergeant Bennett.This sentence has become one of my favorite "first lines". It's a knockout, especially when followed by:"Am I still human?"To reveal more would be to risk telling a plot spoiler. This book begins with a punch, and it is one of the reasons I recommend reading the series from the beginning.All six of the wess'har war books in the series can stand alone. Not every series deserves to have all the books read in order of publication. This series, though, is worth reading all the way through from the beginning work, "The City of Pearl".The third wess'har novel, "The World Before", continues to unfold the fascinating characters introduced in the first book, knitting their lives together in totally unexpected but satisfying ways and places.I like the plot twists in Karen's books more than nearly anything I've read, and I don't intend spoil the surprises for anyone else, so it becomes a challenge to convey the excitement of discovery, the pleasure of the tantalizing developments in this story.Five alien societies live and rub shoulders in the wess'har war series, (humans included). They all have domestic and political problems, which are dwarfed by the secret,: something so transforming of their worlds that obtaining or containing it becomes their top priority.Russell Letson, reviewing Karen's second book, "Crossing the Line" in Locus (2004), favorably compares Traviss to Le Guin, Nancy Kress, and C.J. Cherryh. I agree with him: Karen's writing is easily as entertaining, thought-provoking and skillful as any of the leading lights of Science Fiction today. To his list, I would add David Brin (the Uplift series), and S. L. Viehl. (Stardoc series), two of my personal favorites.Looking for aliens that are truly alien and not just humans in funny costumes? Looking for unforgettable characters, in spite of (or is it because of) they're flaws? Looking for a plot you cannot see coming a mile away, but which is believable once it arrives?The wess'har war books give all that and more. Just don't make the same mistake I did, but order all five of yours together. Because once you start reading, you won't be able to put them down. Since I only ordered the first two in paperback, and couldn't wait for the next three to be delivered, I ended up with those three in digital format. Now I'm usually agreeable with digital books, but these five novels are books I want to take places with me, read again when I go on vacation, handle and pop open and consider. Not so easy with digital. You've been cautioned.(My original review was first published at Forward Motion online, and on my blog, Pandababy.)
slothman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The plot thickens as one alien species calls in assistance from its somewhat less restrained cousins. The fate of Earth is debated via FTL communication while the alien fleet that will mete it out is thirty years away.
SimonW11 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
And Ms Traviss continues to continues to marry very different themes and pose awkward questions with no easy answers in this series that for all its SF trappings is very much about today.
amf0001 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent book - third in the series, continuing to explore the relationships between the gethes (humans) and the technologically advances Wess'har and the spider like isenj. I'm really enjoying this series, well written, interesting ideas and great characters.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Traviss's background as a journalist and familiarity with the military adds authority to this depiction of Royal Marines and other humans interacting with four different sapient races. However, this doesn't mean this is typical military SF. There is tension, but little violence, at least by the humans. Also, environmental issues are central to this series. Third in the series, this book maintains the first two books' uniformly high quality and continues the high drama of flawed individuals trying to do what's right. While the series reportedly will continue in other books, in this book it reaches a satisfying conclusion and while reading the first two would make it easier to follow the action, Traviss gives enough backstory so that a newcomer can pick up the thread.