CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 2 . . . .September 15, 2006
J. Brian Clarke.
Calgary, AB: Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2006.
325 pp., pbk., $18.95.
Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Ronald Hore.
They stopped a couple of meters from the corpse and tried to ignore the continuous, warning rumble of its guardian. Although the body was humanoid, any similarity to Homo sapiens was reflected only by gargoyles on ancient cathedrals. The head was almost spherical, with a wide gash of a lipless mouth, two tiny eyes and a single nostril recessed below a protruding lid of bone. If there were ears, they were concealed under ropy hair which covered most of the head except for the face. The scantily clad being was either incredibly thin or incredibly emaciated, with a mottled brown skin drawn drum-tight over a bone structure which had lumps and joints as if it had been slung together by an amateur with no sense of structural logic.
Christine noticed a complication between the being's legs. "It's a male anyway."
Seems so," Jan agreed. "And humanoid."
"I hate to admit this, but I am sort of disappointed." Christine took a step toward the corpse, promptly stepped back as the guardian hissed and its wings lifted threateningly. "I grew up hoping humankind's first E.T. would be an intelligent spider or something." She sighed. "That poor creature is better looking than a skinny professor I used to know."
Alphanauts is a futuristic space adventure tale. Mankind has reached the near planets in our own solar system but has not yet discovered faster-than-light flight. Instead, mankind has developed methods of traveling into deep space using "deepsleep" and then waking the "Alphanauts" upon arrival. There is a problem, however. After being away from home for more than three years, space travellers can no longer return to Earth because of a condition known as "Earth Allergy Syndrome." The experts had hoped that time spent in "deepsleep" wouldn't count toward the three year limit. Unfortunately, it does.
As they can no longer survive on Earth, a small group of men and women return to Genser's World. There, they meet the descendants of another space-faring race and their symbiots and learn the story of why these other humanoids are trapped on Genser's World. To complicate matters further, we have two intelligent alien spacecraft that have crashed on the planet and are still awake after thousands of years. If these were not enough problems for a handful of colonists to face, the next spaceship to arrive is not controlled by human intelligence and carries the seeds of something alien and possibly even more dangerous than a malevolent computer.
After surviving all these crisis, the "Alphanauts" send a ship back to Earth to discover why there has been no recent contact with their home world and learn that something new has been launched toward them that could have a drastic effect on their small colony.
At 325 pages, the book takes the reader through the adventures of a small group of men and women and their struggle to establish a colony on Genser's World. It is well written and in a language that does not overwhelm the reader in technical details of spaceships and exotic happenings. There is an attempt to humanize the tale, bringing in the thoughts and personalities of the individuals involved. There are 56 chapters and an epilogue. The chapters vary in length from several pages to half a page.
While not a deep sociological rant, the story does make some effort to comment on the possible result of changes to the civilization on our home planet.
This is a fairly straightforward adventure tale, a bit of a page turner that any fan of old fashioned Science Fiction should enjoy.
Ronald Hore, involved with writer's groups and writer's workshops for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.
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