Elsewhere by Dean Koontz

I’ve read a lot of these dimension-hopping novels, so I sort of surprised myself when I picked up Elsewhere. The plot is familiar, and so are the characters; in many ways it’s a good book to pick up when you don’t want to work your brain too hard.

Jeffy lives a life of quiet contentment with his precocious eleven-year -old daughter, Amity. Their near-idyllic life is torn apart when a vagrant Jeffy’s befriended turns out to be a renowned quantum physicist, who gives Jeffy the Key To Everything: a device that transports “passengers” to alternate realities.

Okay, first off, it’s a good book: engaging, well-written, with a light lyrical style which may have put it in the YA category if not for the over-the-top brutality of the main antagonist.

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Relic by Alan Dean Foster

Meet Ruslan, the acerbic last survivor of the human race, which has chosen to eradicate itself throughout the galaxy by engineering a virus without thinking that maybe engineering a cure would’ve been a good idea too. After spending decades wandering his homeworld alone, Ruslan is discovered by a benevolent alien race called the Myssari, who take him back to their planet to live out his final years as their honoured guest and much-loved research project. The Mysarri treat Ruslan very well, but the last human grows restless; he longs for true companionship, so he strikes a reluctant bargain with his benefactors. If they help him search the universe for the lost planet Earth, where he might find another survivor (hopefully female), he promises (and this is where the “reluctant” part comes in) to let them use his genetic material in a somewhat misguided scheme to restart the human race. (I mean why, for God’s sake – we’re a danger to everything everywhere.)

So let’s get the first question out the way: is the book any good?
Short answer: Hell, yes.

Okay, next question: why?

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The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

I’m on a real science-fiction kick at the moment, the more end-of-the-worldy the better (let’s call it, getting in the right mindset).

The Last Astronaut just about qualifies, I reckon.

Seventy odd years from now, an object appears in the solar system that may, or may not be, an alien space craft. As one would expect, the craft is on a collision course with Earth, so what’s left of NASA puts together a team to make contact with the whatever-it-is. The team, made up of quite a stereotypical bunch of barely-trained spacers, is led by Sally Jansen, the woman who is widely seen as responsible for the failure of the first Mars Mission thirty years before, in which a crew member met a rather grisly end. Since NASA was pretty much dismantled after the disaster, Sally is not just their best shot; she’s their only shot.

Quite a topical one this: I have a vague recollection of something travelling into telescope range a few years ago, that was a very similar shape to the one the author describes in the book; so now I know why they sometimes call this Speculative Fiction. This is a couple of hundred pages speculating what the object might be, and it’s a pretty scary guess.

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