Warren Dean – First Contact

Warren Dean is a master of first contact science fiction. His books are all really well written and they unfold credible, and very different, views of how we may one day meet aliens. I thoroughly enjoyed his books, recommend them unreservedly and hope there will soon be more.

The Forever Gene

Who wants to live forever?

We won’t know the answer for decades, perhaps even centuries, but our current research indicates that the gene will extend a person’s life indefinitely.

For most science fiction books one key advance, such as the idea of a genetic manipulation that will halt the aging process, would be the basis of the entire plot. But the technology of the title is only one of the threads in The Forever Gene which is brimming with interesting concepts as well as an excellent first-contact storyline.

The Faerie Folk are aliens of an elven appearance and they arrive one day without warning to offer Planet Earth access to their spacefaring technology.

David Herald was the creator of the Forever Gene which freezes biological age when it is applied. He is no selfless humanitarian and makes big money selling the precious gift of life. He and his wife, Pris, run a clinic where the procedure is undertaken, offering effective immortality – but only to those few financial fat-cats who can afford the multimillion dollar price tag. When the Faerie Folk arrive David and Pris find themselves being asked to apply the procedure in a highly unusual way, in return for which they are, apparently, well rewarded.

One of the aspects I love about this book and indeed about all of Warren Dean’s writing that I have enjoyed so far, is the open internationalism. Any nation can become the place where events happen and if they do, then it is portrayed in a non-partisan way. In this case, the aliens arrive in Ulan Bator and one of our heroines is a Mongolian journalist, Qara-Chinoa. She is befriended by one of the Faerie Folk – a translator with the expedition called Vi. It is a relationship that turns out to have far reaching consequences.

Aided by blueprints from the Faerie Folk, an international consortium begins building an interstellar-capable craft from a base on the moon and there we meet Katya Kasparova, second in command of the Russian delegation to that consortium and someone who becomes a key player in events after the aliens have left earth. When the aliens do leave, their parting gift is one that seems beneficial, but leaves tremendous issues in its wake. Issues which affect the lives of everyone on earth and lead to dramatic consequences that push humanity out into the stars.

It struck her that the predominant concepts reflected were beauty, nature, and co-operation rather than conflict, passion, sorrow, and sacrifice, which were thecommon themes expressed in human artwork.

The story is generally well paced and the writing style excellent. The characters are mostly the kind of people you can believe in, root for and want to know more about. The plot is credible and exciting and the futuristic technology is intriguing, creative and well explained where needed.

For me the only slight flaw was that I was not fully accepting of the reaction of humanity as a whole to the gift of the Faerie Folk. Some of the things that the author saw as being key problems were ones which I could see there being little issue resolving. But that is a personal view based on my own, perhaps too optimistic, view of humanity. And on a side note, I did feel the author made an odd choice in highlighting the UK as a place where religious sentiment in relation to morality was deemed to have real influence. Even today it is one of the top five least religious countries in the world. But these are minor gripes when set against the overall story.

I would whole heartedly recommend ‘The Forever Gene’ to lovers of sci-fi and to those who enjoy apocalyptic and dystopian fiction too. I am hoping that there will be more books in the series available soon.

 

The Treasure Hunters

It is hard to write too much about what I liked in this novella without moving into spoiler territory, but I will try.

To begin with, it is as the title tells us, about treasure hunters – but not just in the modern day. The binding thread of the separate, but inter-woven, adventures told in very different time periods is the same lure of treasure, even if the motives vary from seeking wonder to seeking wealth – to seeking something else altogether. Each step on the ladder of time is a complete story in and of itself, but nests together with the others to give a fuller picture. It is this careful crafting of each sub-story which gives the overall book its strength.

The writing is lucid and fluid and the author shows a good command of the technicalities involved – presenting them in a way that does not get too exacting or demanding on an ignorant reader like myself.

The questions left at the end of the book point the way forward to something more, but it still finishes in a way that allows a reader to feel they would not have been short changed if nothing more was ever added.

I enjoyed it.

Return of the Treasure Hunters

I really enjoyed this book. It is definitely best read having enjoyed the introductory novella The Treasure Hunters as that more than sets the scene for this story, it underpins and enhances it. The Treasure Hunters asks questions which this book begins to answer and some of the awe and wonder of that would be lost if you have not made the journey with Patrick and Molly and have not followed the Christina de la Fuego on her voyage of adventure.

The story begins some forty years after the last book closes and is set in the near-future, when Patrick and Molly tell their eldest son Connor the source of their wealth and then discover it is missing. The reason for that becomes apparent when all of humanity falls under threat. The involvement of Connor and his parents in trying to avert this threat form much of the rest of the story.

But there is a second story, that of Christina – of the Christina de la Fuegofame – the daughter of the man we met in The Treasure Hunters, who had named his ship for his red-haired daughter. This story is almost complete in itself, a parallel and fascinating historical odyssey of a woman in a man’s era making her own mark in her own way.

We also learn something of the story and motives of those who have come across space-time on their own treasure hunt and glimpse into a vastly grander universe through a brief window with them.

The stories all flow together in unexpected manner, but in a way which also seems perfectly natural and unforced. Something that is a great strength of the author – like peering into a prism through its different facets and allowing the final rainbow of light to emerge seamless.

Most first-contact story lines leave me struggling to really believe in them, but this one has a really solid ground and that carries into the story, gathering power and conviction as it goes. The response from humanity is, in my view, very well explored and the unexpected resolution both satisfying and totally credible.

If you enjoy concept sci-fi with a human face, you should pick this up. If you enjoy a well written story with interesting characters, you will enjoy this. But do read The Treasure Hunters first or you will miss out on so much which gives this book its ultimate appeal.

I look forward to the next novella in the series.

Published by

E.M. Swift-Hook

In the words that Robert Heinlein put into the mouth of Lazarus Long: 'Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.' Having tried a number of different careers, before settling in the North-East of England with family, three dogs, cats and a small flock of rescued chickens, I now spend a lot of time in private and have very clean hands.

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