When I saw this book for $.33 in the new secret cheap books back room at Hooked on Books in Springfield, I had to have it. After all, Levar Burton is the former host of Reading Rainbow and star of The Midnight Hour. As I have mentioned before, I think one of my collecting niches is books based on movies, books upon which movies are based, and books by movie and television stars. Hence, I thought this book by a relatively obscure actor would be worth the cold, hard coinage. Plus, I had two other books, no doubt.
This book takes place in the coming decades, after the following has occurred:
- The United States spends too much on a space station, foreign aid, and small wars so that it’s nearly bankrupt.
- A black man is elected president and is subsequently assassinated by those damn white supremecist militias.
- The New Madrid fault goes.
- Climate change stresses the world. Not just makes uncomfortable, but drives down agricultural yields and so on.
- A 3 year race war occurs, representing a second coming of the Civil War. Fought on American soil, it pits whites against everyone else in set piece sorts of battles leading to bombings of corn fields. Oddly enough, though, the rest of the world doesn’t intervene, and at the end, no one is bowing to Mecca or speaking Mandarin.
Remember, this book bears a 1997 publication date, so it was probably written ca 1996. Bill Clinton is running for re-election. It’s one year since the Oklahoma City bombing and three years after the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. Perhaps in this era, the books concerns were plausible; however, to me they seem very dated given the way the world has turned. On the other hand, just last week, I had a Jewish friend express rather earnest concern that George W. Bush was going to outlaw Judaism and round up the Jews. Perhaps some people see a racial/creedist civil war still possible in our cards rather than the red state/blue state divide which I think separates us more.
But I digress; this book has a plot. A scientist comes up with an electromagnetic brain stimulator which not only affords healing properties for the human body, but also can sometimes produce, as a side effect, telepathic and precognitive ability. Which comes in handy when some corrupt members of what passes for the post-apocalyptic medical establishment kidnap her for her secret.
The scientist reaches out and touches an Indian medicine man, a now-homeless former meterologist, and a now-homeless young woman to come to her aid. The bulk of the book comprises their individual stories and their eventual coming together for her rescue. And then, suddenly, in the last moments of the book, they resolve the situation with a climactic Hollywoodesque ending. Something out of Star Trek: The Next Generation, almost.
Still, it’s a fairly compelling book. The shifting points-of-view among the major characters and interactive, not overly expository histories make the first portion of the book easy to read and drive toward a conclusion. Unfortunately, again (like in Sharky’s Machine) I can almost sense when a movie option is signed or an author is ready to be done with the book, so the sudden career into a slam-bang finish occurs.
So it’s a good enough genre piece, even if it’s somewhat dated. It reminds me of the 1960s-era topical science fiction I read, so it will live on in that vein at least. If Mr. Burton wrote this himself, he’s not a bad writer, but then again, I would expect nothing less from the well-read public television evangelist of childhood reading and bona-fide star of television and screen.
Books mentioned in this review: