The First Salik War - for fans of Star Trek TNG and Babylon 5
Terra of the future looks pretty good overall and Earth along with a few space stations are united under one representative government. The largest threat to that security is an enigmatic alien race, the Greys, that likes to kidnap humans for an unknown purpose. Although technologically stronger the Greys are vulnerable to powerful psionic attacks which has made the psi guilds prominent in the space navy. For that reason the government and the space navy take it very seriously when precogs all over the globe start reporting visions of navy personnel encountering at least one new race, and possibly two. Based upon those visions the navy launches a new set of exploratory missions including a crew made up of six people seen in the visions. Unfortunately for them, the visions all agree that there will be a crew of humans at the mercy of a hostile race that intends to eat them alive.
Jackie is a powerful psionic with several gifts who has served in the space navy but is now taking a break from her political career to serve with this new expeditionary force. Not only did the precogs see her present in all visions where the captive humans were rescued, but having served in Terra's ruling body for several years they see her as qualified to negotiate on behalf of Earth in a First Contact situation. The rest of the crew consists of a pilot, co-pilot, astrophysicist, doctor, and navigator. Unfortunately the co-pilot fears psis which causes many problems for the team. But as predicted, their ship is captured via a tractor beam by hostile aliens. While scanning them telepathically Jackie confirms that they have captive several humans although they have already eaten some. She uses holokinesis, telekinesis, and telepathy to rescue the strangers and disable the alien ship so they can escape. That's just the warm up.
The Terrans, book 1 is about rescuing the V'dan, who are genetically human but not from Earth. They too have psis which led to Lieth, who is also Prince Kahraman, being on that ship. Lieth was serving his mandatory military stint incognito, as all royals do, when the war started. He devoutly believes the legends of his people and the holy texts describe that they will need the humans as allies to survive the war. Discovering that they are genetically related to the Terrans isn't a surprise to them because the V'Dan always knew they had come from another world and had no fossil record on V'Dan. So the Terrans show the V'Dan around their solar system and Jackie begins to train Lieth's natural psi abilities.
Book two, The V'Dan, continues the thread with the crew being hosted as an official embassy on V'Dan which results in a few socio-political issues. Although genetically related, the V'Dan show various skin markings in maturity that Terrans lack which leads to discrimination due to their "juvenile" appearance. The V'Dan are a hereditary monarchy but just one of several sentient races that exist in a loose federation. Some of the other races refuse to negotiate separately with the Terrans because they assume all humans must be one entity. All of these races are at war with the Salik who prefer sentient meals above all else. The most personal complication is that Jackie and Lieth are joined in a psionic gestalt pairing and parting them causes severe mental trauma. While such pairings are rare they are well documented on Earth. To the V'Dan it is a Holy pairing but scandalous since Jackie appears to be a child in their sight.
There are a few minor battle scenes in the first two books, but in The Blockade Jackie and Lieth are overseeing the integration of Terran forces and technology into the V'Dan space force so there is greater emphasis on the war. The Salik were well acquainted with the military technology of the others so Terran communications and armor plating give all of their new allies an advantage. Jackie and Lieth end up involved with efforts on different planets belonging to the various races which each require different responses to both the Salik threat and cultural identities of the inhabitants. The other races include felinoids, arachnoids, reptilian, amphibious, incorporeal entities, and silicate based lifeforms. No matter the circumstances Terran ingenuity, psis, the navy, and marines are all prepared to do battle.
For an author who writes more fantasy-romance than anything else, this is a surprisingly thoughtful sci-fi saga. The United Terra is an unusually hopeful vision of our future although they admit that there are plenty of isolationists and terrorists still fighting. Overall the trilogy is a great first contact scenario that incorporates a lot of human nature into how we respond to others, even in more enlightened times. The story goes at a steady pace with bursts of action here and there. While not edgy like The Expanse, this is a good series for those who enjoyed Star Trek, TNG and Babylon 5. Since this is our future there are references to real popular science fiction such as the comparison to the Vulcan mind-meld that Jackie hates.
Johnson also wrote Theirs Not to Reason Why, which is a rather grim military sci-fi epic from the future of the Terran/V'Dan universe. Although The First Salik War trilogy was written later it comes first chronologically and in many ways is the stronger series. In a completely different genre she has two interconnected fantasy-romance series. The most notable of those is The Tower which spoofs traditional dice rattling RPGs. Its a ridiculous book about dungeon crawling which has its moments.