Thursday, April 11, 2013

Another ambiguous whack at the origin of J.C.

kw: book reviews, science fiction, political fiction, moon, apollo program, conspiracies

After reading The Cassandra Project by Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick, two writers whose work I admire greatly, I gave myself a while to think. Then I did something I haven't done before: took a look at other reviews. I wanted to see who, if any, shared my concern about yet another "ancient alien" explanation for the Christian religion. Didn't find anyone, as expected. Very few Christians read science fiction anyway. Sorry if that's a spoiler, guys.

But it is no spoiler to guess, without opening the book, that a novel by McDevitt and Resnick is going to bring in aliens in some way. I do wonder about the title, though. Other than connecting the plot with ancient Greece, it makes little demand on the reader, and actually seems irrelevant.

For the record: In the Iliad, Cassandra was a prophetess who spurned the advances of Zeus (he had more conquests than Wilt the Stilt). He angrily cursed her to be always right and never believed. Turns out to be a big factor in the demise of Troy. I never figured out how it connected with the 50-year-old alleged conspiracy in the book. I guess they had to name it something.

There is one bit of nonsense that I didn't expect from writers who are known for hardheaded science. During the return trip from the Moon:
"It's raining out."
Bucky looked out the window and watched a cloud of rocks sweep past.
Now, that's a bit of supreme silliness. Any "rocks" sweeping by will be going about 30 km/s, with respect to the spacecraft, which is moving something like 7 km/s toward Earth. A piece the size of a golf ball would be in sight no more than a millisecond or two; if you knew exactly where to look, you'd still miss it. Bucky, by the way, is a billionaire (he claims $3B) who is funding a commercial venture to return to the Moon. He must have some powerful aces up his sleeve; in 1969 dollars, each visit to the Moon cost about $4B; multiply by 8 for current dollars.

All that aside, the book is a great read. While it is pretty clear quite early that the "conspiracy" is going to be validated, precisely what it is, and why, are kept just out of reach until very late. That's a prime piece of plot management. The writers make a reader care about, not just the "hero", Jerry, but his erstwhile antagonist and then employer, Bucky, and several others. While I had to suspend more disbelief than usual, I enjoyed the novel.

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