Heavier Than a Mountain: Destiny’s Crucible Book 3, by Olan Thorensen

This is the third book in the chronicles of Joe Colsco, the sole human survivor of a crash between a commercial jet and an alien spacecraft. Joe is healed and awakened by an AI who tells him that he has a choice. Since he knows that aliens are watching earth with invisible spacecraft he can’t return home. He can either opt to be painlessly eliminated or be placed on another world that had been seeded with humans by some unknown race. Joe chooses the planet. The previous two books were Cast Under an Alien Sun and The Pen and the Sword.

In other reviews I’ve compared the series to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain. An intelligent modern human (an engineer in Twain, a chemist in Thorensen) is dropped into a less advanced culture. That theme continues in book three. From the start Joe, known to the locals as Yosef Kolsko, has been a creator and entrepreneur. When a race known as the Narthani begin to raid various territories Yosef also begins inventing war strategies and technology to defend the people he befriended.

In this volume there are three new twists that may impact how the series continues. At the very start of the book one of the artificial intelligences that monitor the planet notes that there has been an increase of war activity on the planet. It doubts this could be the fault of the introduction of one new human. Still, it has decided this needs to be passed up the chain of command for consideration.

Another twist is that Yosef was placed on the planet with some enhancements. These were, in part, to help him deal with a change in gravity, but he was also given nanobots in his bloodstream to speed healing and an eidetic memory for some books that he read on earth. The locals are now beginning to wonder if he is somehow connected to the divine as a messenger. Yosef, not to his credit, exploits that growing rumor to get his way in important decisions.

Third, Yosef learns about smooth and indestructible egg-like stones that are found around the planet. He begins to suspect that these were placed on the planet by the ancient unknown race who seeded life on the planet.

To fight the Narthani, Yosef continues to introduce new military technology. This includes perfecting 6 and 12 pound cannons along with some shudder-worthy arms like landmines and napalm.

Part of the continuing charm of the books are Yosef’s relationships with various natives of the planet. He is now married with children and has built close friendships with people at all levels of the society. In this volume some of that gets set aside for some longer segments on how the new technology is being created. It distracts from the heart of the book. Then again it’s something of a throwback to Golden Age sci-fi in which a lot of literary quality was sacrificed for interesting science. Thorensen is generally a more astute writer than that, but here he does take some tedious side roads.

There are still threats and dangers ahead, though some issues get solved here. Enough unanswered questions remain for at least one or two more books.