Earth has been devastated after a near miss by the white-hot protoplanet Athena, ejected from Jupiter. Its poles and climatic bands have been shifted, and its continents and oceans resculpted in titanic cataclysms producing results previously believed to require hundreds of thousands of years. Civilization as we know it has ended. Only the colony of Kronia, established among Saturn's moons to pursue new values and free science from the old world's closed-minded dogmas, preserves technology and human culture. While the few bands of dazed survivors left on Earth succumb to a collective amnesia of what went before and revert rapidly to brutality and barbarism, the Kronian culture is already developing new insights to the riddles of early human history and the origins of the Solar System, and opening up realms of physics that will carry humankind to the stars. The further-seeing among the Kronians have a vision of founding a new civilization on the reborn Earth, based on values worthy of a stargoing civilization and avoiding the destructive influences of conquest and exploitation that have always led ultimately to decline in the past. So when conditions on Earth stabilize sufficiently, Landen Keene, previously a nuclear propulsion engineer in the world that no longer exists, and some of the companions who escaped with him in the final days, return with the first Kronian reconnaissance mission to establish a base in what was a region of Africa, and commence the task of beginning anew.
But not everyone is as enamored by the prospect of a free society in which individual worth is measured by ability and contribution, not possessions and power to control. The Terrans who were brought back to Kronia included people whose status on Earth stemmed from wielding power of the kind that the old order understood, and who are not prepared to settle for what they perceive as second-class citizenship in a system they are unable to relate to. When their bid for a bigger part in running things fails under Kronian constitutional procedures, they resort to deception, violence, and the methods that in their previous experience served them well.
Their plan reveals itself as a series of coordinated moves to seize the newly established base on Earth and initiate a new Terran order built not around the Kronian vision, but based on the familiar principles of force, subjugation, and domination all over again. The situation quickly escalates to recruiting and arming native survivors reverted to near-barbarism to keep the Kronian pioneer mission subdued until the Terran leadership and their supporters arrive to establish their authority. Isolated by distance from the hope of any immediate help from Saturn, and with only a few helpers and pitifully slim resources at his disposal, Keene emerges as the only hope of improvising an effective resistance.
But maybe that was precisely why he was sent there.
Original title: The Anguished Dawn
Genre: Fiction→ Science Fiction→ Bleak Futures→ Nuclear Holocaust/Post-Apocalypse