Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Review: Seeds of Change

Before I get into the story I want to talk a bit about the book itself. This is the first of a series of books from Laser Books. Inside the front cover is a rather strange letter from the editor. He almost seems to be begging the reader to enjoy the book and not judge him too harshly. The language he uses in his letter gives me the impression that he may have studied writing and publishing, has learned the buzzwords, but has little practical experience in the field. A marketing goes it just comes off as desperate.

Wikipedia says that several of the authors who had books released in the Laser Books series complained that their stories were mangled. They often had their stories re-released by other publishers later. Also, apparently Laser Books was a branch of Harlequin Books. Yeah, as in Harlequin romance novels. This tidbit explains a lot.

So! The book! "Seeds of Change" opens on an Earth several centuries beyond an apocalyptic war that killed most of the planet. A few cities were established and encased in an energy field. The people are very carefully bred and controlled. Society has stagnated and done so by design.

The central character has been assigned for a couple of weeks looking over random citizen profiles for any personality defects that might someday make them a criminal. If he finds one it gets reported and those running the city will have that person killed. Few are found, but he's not fond of this job. So when he goes out for drinks to forget that he'd just sentenced someone to death he makes the mistake of complaining about his job. A woman overhears this and picks him up.

Meanwhile, on Mars...
After the war on Earth Mars was pretty much SOL. The colonists couldn't expect supplies, rockets, a ride home, or even communications from Earth. They were on their own. But they lived and have developed a fairly nice base and society. Then an alien craft buzzes the planet, drops a probe ship, and leaves. Inside the ship the colonists find a series of rooms. In each room a lesson is taught. Mathematical and scientific lessons, mostly. Once they demonstrate their understanding of the lesson a door opens to the next room and the next lesson. After a few months the ship refuses to let them move on until their society develops a bit more.

The Earth character gets an alarm one day. Someone is looking at his records. He's been flagged as a danger. He flees. Not knowing where to go he calls the woman from the bar. She's a member of a resistance force that lives outside the city domes. She hacked his profile to make him look like a threat so he'd flee and they could recruit him. They get him out of the city amid a hail of gun fire and take him to one of their hidden bases.

The probe ship had taught the colonists how to fly it. A team is assembled to return to Earth. On the way those in the ship get a message. Mars leadership has been in touch with the resistance on Earth for some time. The resistance has most of the world to roam in and were able to get some old communications dishes working. Those on the ship are to make contact and see how they can help.

The domed cities and the resistance have been at war for centuries. The people in the dome just didn't know about it. Big battle mechs have been made and sent out to fight for them. The ruins of the mechs and the resistance's craft litter the country side.

The ship's landing draws the attention of the domed cities. They send a huge military force to capture it and to destroy the rebels that the rocket must obviously be helping.

I want you to think about that for a moment. The cities do have some nice technology. They can put energy fields over whole cities. They build self controlling, walking, battle tanks. Their technology has developed nicely. But the aliens have ships that skip across the universe fairly easily. Their physics makes the best scientists on Mars feel like kindergarteners in a calculus class. There's only one of their probes to the city's hundreds of mechs and some new genetically engineered warrior people.

The battle goes like this. A few of the rebellion's ships get destroyed by concentrated firing from the city's troops. They try the same on the rocket. It doesn't notice except to return fire. The city's troops are obliterated.

Remember the first time the Enterprise encountered the Borg? They couldn't damage the Borg in any way but the Borg chopped them up like a hot knife through tofu. The battle between the alien probe and the city's troops were much like that.

Then they go after the city itself. Lots of rebellion troops draw out the city's troops and die by the hundreds for their efforts. Eventually they send in the alien probe to exterminate the troops and then destroy the city.

There wasn't much suspense in the book. The battles had all the drama of you stepping on a dead cockroach. It sort of illustrates the problem of writing for Superman. What threatens someone who is virtually a god?

You can pretty much skip this book. It's alright, but it's mostly for your personal collection.

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