Have you read this book?
It is 10 years in the future. On the surface not much has changed. However the new US Vice President Fairchild gradually discovers that beneath the surface not much has changed either: the aliens who seeded the Earth 4 billion years ago are still planning to terminate their experiment in 2030; the other aliens who come to snoop on the experiment’s results are still abducting the odd person; and the other other aliens who created the universe in the first place continue to ignore it.
Why haven’t we heard about this already? Because the people in the US intelligence department who know what’s going on have been subverted by the pair of caretaker Seeder aliens: the ones who’ve spent the last 2000 years softening us up for the final blow, a meteorite that will send us the way of the dinosaurs.
The story starts with Fairchild’s murder (in one of three prologues) , and then tells in flashback how he learnt about the conspiracy (by being plugged into an AI computer and experiencing virtual reality) and how he succeeded in escaping to tell the world — that he will succeed we know from the prologue.
Some of the books submitted for review to SFReader are self-published first books. Frisbee is unusual in that he submitted two, this one and A Sea of Time. If you read that review you will see that I found it reasonably enjoyable, but that it had several problems. This book shares those problems.
The chapters are too short: there are 58 of them, with an average of 6 pages apiece; but some are much shorter. As a result the book has a disjointed feel. The tendency for a short conversation somehow to occupy a whole day is less prominent, but still happens in the central, virtual reality, section.
In A Sea of Time there was much ‘name-dropping’ of science. Here it’s event-dropping: we have Tiananmen Square, JFK’s assassination, the Black Death, the Crucifixion, Noah’s Flood, Atlantis, the Chicxulub meteorite, even the Big Bang. When science is mentioned it is still unreliable: Frisbee implies that every supernova produces a neutron star (larger stars result in black holes); and he seems to be of the opinion that the pupil is a hole into the eye through which an electrode can easily be inserted (don’t try this at home, children).
Finally there is improbability: the action section at the end of the book features several only-just-in-time happenings; three characters change side with insufficient reason or motivation; and the fragment of DNA that seeds the Earth evolves into a humanity so similar to the Seeder aliens that the same anti-senescence treatment works on both.
Those are the shared problems; now the faults of just this book. The aliens are decidedly un-alien. It was a mistake to call the chief villain, who is trying to kill humanity, Caine. The ending doesn’t really solve anything: though the truth is revealed to the world, there’s no suggestion that we can do anything about it. The worst thing though is the two gaping holes in the plot. The aliens decide in 30AD to destroy the world, but choose a date 2000 years later. Why the delay? They’d had the technology for billennia…. And the last section of the book involves Fairchild desperately trying to reach his old home where he has a computer, so that he can email the world. Why? Hadn’t he heard of Internet cafes?
Now the good news. The writing is good. The characterization is improved compared with A Sea of Time; the only character that failed to ring true was the AI computer (which is either excusable or perhaps even intentional). The action sequences in the last section are done well. And there’s a nice touch of recursion in the penultimate page. Over all, though, I found it a less enjoyable book than the first.