Space Ark, by Thomas Hubschman

space-ark-by-thomas-hubschman coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Savvy Press
Published: 1981
Reviewer Rating: one star
Book Review by Lynn Nicole Louis

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Space Ark reminded me of an element required for any fiction to be successful: suspension of disbelief. Unfortunately, I was reminded because of Space Ark’s inability to achieve this.

The blurb on the back cover states that this is a ‘re-issue of the SF cult classic of the 1980s.’ The story follows the adventures of a small group of humans and Simminoids as they flee a destroyed planet Earth, pursued by the President and his administration. The reason they’re fleeing is because one of the stars in Alpha Centauri has gone nova and the resulting shockwave is going to destroy all life on Earth. Whatever scientific knowledge I have comes from watching the Discovery Channel, but as far as I understand it there’s no such thing as a shockwave in space. That’s because there’s no matter in space to transport the energy of an explosion. So the ‘shockwave’ from a star going nova in system light years away would hardly pose any sort of threat to Earth. Unable to accept the basic premise the whole story was built around interfered greatly with my ability to accept any of the rest of it.

One of the interesting things writers of science fiction do is speculate on future events and developments. Unfortunately — and especially for stories written about the not-too-far-distant future — in a few years the developments they speculated on might have already happened or even be obsolete. In Space Ark, written in the early 80s, Simminoids are apes that have been surgically altered to have greater intelligence and dexterity. How? But having portions of human brains (and where did they get these by the way?) grafted to their own brains and by having their own hands cut off and human hands grafted on in their place. Furthermore, these human hands are grafted on when the apes are infants and grow as the apes grow.

I’ve nothing against the supposition of humans altering another species to make it more intelligent, but as we all know today, any such manipulation is going to happen at the genetic level. We’ll tinker with the DNA so the species grows a larger more complex brain, or grows hands with more dexterity. Are the Simminoids a story breaker? For some they might not be, but for me they were. I just couldn’t accept them as ‘real’. I don’t recall the state of genetic research in the early 80’s, so in all likelihood Hubschman’s speculation, at the time, seemed a reasonable extension of current technology. In 2002, however, it’s just plain silly.

Too, the main character, a human named Walter, fled Alpha Centauri as it was being destroyed by the main star going nova. When he attempts to report the danger, the current administration, led by a charismatic president named Marshall Lynch, locks him in an insane asylum. In the asylum, he meets Boston Commons, a Simminoid sympathizer who already knows about Earth’s impending destruction. They hatch a plan, and, making use of materials and supplies that would hardly be readily available to asylum inmates, construct a helium balloon and float away over the treetops to freedom. Okayyyy….

Another thing: nobody reads. Walter does because he developed it as a hobby. But no one else does. Yet Walter went to college, as did many other of the characters we meet. They studied engineering and other subjects. They built huge spaceships capable of transporting thousands of humans, Simminoids and animals. Without knowing how to read. Sure they did….

That’s just a few of the most glaring examples of the inconsistencies I encountered. One or two minor stumbles in a book might be overlookable, but here there are so many and they are of such magnitude, they I found myself unable to look the other way. And I was only a quarter of the way into the book.

Lest I sound as though I am lambasting the whole thing, there are some positives here. In the middle, as they are embarked on their journey and pursued by Marshall Lynch, it develops an undeniable charisma. The Simminoid character Mneh, who comes to think of himself as a modern Moses leading his people to freedom, is interesting. There are tense moments as Marshall Lynch and his cronies catch up to the fleeing space arks. Walter comes across realistically as a man caught up in big events, swept along by fate yet determined to do what he can to help.

Unfortunately it’s all wrapped in a package made up of a series of events that are unlikely at best and just plain impossible at worst.

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