REVIEW: Those Left Behind by N.C. Scrimgeour

N.C. Scrimgeour’s debut series, The Waystations Trilogy, is billed as ‘perfect for fans of Mass Effect, The Expanse and Star Wars’ and the first instalment, Those Left Behind is an excellent introduction to this space opera that will please readers who enjoy darker themes in their sci-fi. Coming second in the latest Self Published Sci-Fi Competition, Those Left Behind proves itself to be a strong contender in the realm of modern sci-fi.

Those Left Behind Those Left Behind starts on New Pallas; a planet of humans that is overwhelmed and on the brink of total collapse. With 50 billion residents, the only hope for survival is a scouting mission out into the black of deep space in search of habitable worlds. Tensions on board captain Alvera Renata’s ship are already smouldering before they are underway – the humans of New Pallas have divided themselves between those from the surface, and those who live on the floating Exodus station that orbits the planet. Exodans have embraced cybernetic adaptations and view surface-dwellers as obsolete. Some believe they should abandon those living on the planet entirely and only evacuate Exodans when a new world is found.  Renata struggles from the start to ensure her crew understand that they will be saving everyone or no one.

Punching a hole through space, Renata and crew arrive in a new galaxy to discover they are not alone in the universe. They’re not even the only humans out there. As they stumble into a volatile political landscape that is not happy to see them, Exodan mutineers take over causing Renata and allies to scatter across this new galaxy in hopes of staying alive. Those Left Behind takes them to dangerous planets to deal with criminal bosses, bounty hunters and worlds whose atmosphere will stop them dead. All the while, war teeters on the tip of the galaxy’s tongue and New Pallas is all but abandoned to its terrible fate in the name of the greater good.

What our plucky humans didn’t know is that they have inadvertently started a huge doomsday clock that heralds the arrival of something intent on destroying all life in the galaxy. As different factions of occupied space posture against each other, the countdown forces some turbulent decisions that cost lives. Those Left Behind creates a convincingly ominous threat ‘behind the curtains’ to keep at the back of your mind. Even as characters are witnessing and committing their own atrocities in the name of protecting the galaxy, their people and their friends, there is something much worse lurking just off stage.

Across its pages, Those Left Behind approaches some heavy themes, such as eugenics, genocide and warmongering. Violence isn’t strictly commonplace but can be brutal. Alvera Renata is a case-study in grey morals and the way Scrimgeour has told her story makes you want to root for her. There are despicable villains to hate and desperate shimmers of hope to cling to throughout Those Left Behind. The story leaves you with enough questions to propel you forward in the series but not so many as to be frustrating. The prose is quick and clever with subtle world-building and deep characters. The second and third books in the series, Those Once Forgotten and Those Who Resist, are already published and available for those who don’t like to wait.

Read Those Left Behind by N.C. Scrimgeour

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Rai Furniss-Greasley

Rai Furniss-Greasley

Rai is an avid SFF fan, with a leaning towards the darker stuff, and has been ever since they were a little kid. Rai lives with their partner and two cats, Noomi and Scout. They work in IT and are also a post-grad researcher into non-binary experiences. Besides reading, Rai enjoys walking, gardening, TV & films, and gaming, where they are a co-host of The Offline Gamer. Rai posts reviews and other bookish content on their site, , where you can also find some of their own fiction writing.