This is a long post. To shorten it you can skip the quotes and just take my word for it. Or skip on to something that does not require “TL-DR.”
I like space opera and a book I just finished fits into that category. The space opera part of the book was good: Fast paced, lots of action, variety in characters. That pretty much sums up my review of the good parts of the book.
It is the “bad” parts that I want to write about. It seems that more and more of the sci-fi I read is concerned about making a political or philosophical statement rather than telling a good story. Sometimes they are such poor writers that I quit reading. Sometimes, like Ian Douglas, they tell a good enough story for me to finish the book, but I need to skim a lot to get past their preaching. Douglas has a number of issues that are eating at him and he keeps coming back to them.
He has fallen for the hoax of global warming. I wish writers would stop jumping on the latest band wagon of pseudo-science or pop-psychology. It really makes them look dated. On page 111 he makes this statement:
“For the past three centuries, all the world’s established coastal cities had been battling the effects of global warming-including rising sea levels. Some, like Charleston had followed the ancient example of Holland and built extensive sea walls, creating safe havens and new land behind them that were for the most part below sea level. Others, like the Manhattan Magaplex, continued building up as the sea waters flooded in, controlling the effects of storm surges and high tide through the use of concentric rings of tidal barriers...” (Emphasis in Original)He totally disregards the actual statements of the scientists who forecast a fraction of an inch rise of water even if you believe it all. These statements are peppered through the book.
One of the problems that “science” is having with evolution is that it doesn’t work. They see this and they see evidence of what is called Intelligent Design. To them Intelligent Design means there is a god so they reject it. The patterns are still there. They work out the problem by assuming that humans are the product of genetic modification by aliens. Check out page 12:
“His mind flicked to the Ancients, the inevitable name for the mysterious and godlike civilization that had tried to terraform Mars half a million years ago - and failed. They’d left traces of their presence on the Red Planet - including evidence that they’d tinkered with the DNA of certain bright and promising primates on the Blue Planet, next in toward the Sun.”He rejects God designing humanity but since it is obvious that it could not have happened by chance he invents some aliens to do the job. This is a common theme in science fiction. It is still faith, but rejects religious faith.
Which brings us to his attitude toward religion. He hates it. Again he keeps coming back to this theme. Check out pages 55 and 56:
“The excavation, two centuries earlier, of vast undersea ruins off the coasts of Sri Lanka and in the shallow gulf of Khambhat had proven - to him, at least, if not his father - that the hero tales, myths, and legends of most world religions rested in the colonization efforts of several extraterrestrial spacefaring species arriving on Earth eight to ten thousand years ago.And then we have another way of explaining Noah’s ark on page 146. It was the result of an attack by aliens.
“It was now known definitely that the Ahannu had established colonies at several points on the Aarth, that those colonies had been annihilated by the Hunters of the Dawn, and that the Oannan/N’mah had at least visited the planet after the Hunter attack, helping scattered and disorganized tribes of primitive humans to reacquire the rudiments of civilization. There was no need to assume the intervention of deities when it was clear that star-traveling aliens had interacted with humans in the remote past.” (Emphasis in Original)
“According to N’mah records, their explorers had discovered human survivors of the flood, wretched beings on the point of reverting to complete savagery when the starships arrived, bringing the gifts of civilization, and, in the process, planting the seeds that would one day become the legends of Oannes and the Nommo, of God’s covenant with Man, of Prometheus’s gift of fire.So the savior is not Jesus, it is the N’mah.
“Under N’mah guidance, civilization had emerged once more on the fertile plains between the Tigris and the Euphrates, cities had appeared, and humanity had been reborn. The N’mah quite literally were the saviors of Humankind.”
He is not willing to stop with the question of intelligent life. He needs to go on to attack the foundations of modern religions. He takes on the Roman Catholic church and the current controversy of male leadership on page 109.
“In the Vatican, in Saint Peter’s Square, similar doctrinal disputes resulted in a clash between followers of the Papess and of the counter-Pope,...”Do you get it? A Papess? Saint Peter is turning over in his grave. Or he would if he thought such nonsense had any endurance. Then we have an attack on the concept of family on page 257:
“Yeah. Fetterman lost his whole family when Florida went underwater. His wife, two husbands, two kids, birth parents.”These ideas show up more than once.
Then he gets going on post modern philosophy and ties the idea that each person has his own truth into eastern mysticism and science.
“Military psychologists now accepted as fact the heightening of extrasensory abilities, and even worked at strengthening them through mental disciplines such as Weiji-do.”And then he uses the term “consensual reality” on page 314. He had laid the groundwork before this and uses the concept to have the marines manipulate matter and find a new insight into the way the universe works. Pretty heavy stuff hiding in the middle of an adventure story.
I will give Douglas credit for writing a good story. I would like to color code books like this though. Black type would be for the actual story. Red could be for philosophical discussions that could be skipped with no loss of plot line. Green could be for environmental nonsense. Gray could be for questionable science. Passionate pink could be for steamy sex scenes. It would save me a lot of time because I skip a lot of that stuff anyway. In this case, there would still be a good story, which is why I am reading the book.
homo unius libri