Reviewed by: Peter Spasov
Title: Déjà Doomed
Author: Edward M. Lerner
NSS Amazon link for this book
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Publisher: CAEZIK SF & Fantasy
Date: May 2021
Retail Price: $16.44/$6.99
At this time (or so it appears), we humans are the only ones on Earth who are extinction aware, including the possibility that once again a giant asteroid, or comet, will likely impact the Earth to obliterate entire species and our civilization—just that we don’t know when. And there are plenty of blockbuster films and fiction about how a band of heroes will save the day to prevent our demise. Now, as an entirely new and creative twist to this story, Edward L. Lerner’s Déjà Doomed presents hard science, credible characters and a slew of realistic, albeit speculative, possibilities.
Lerner, having worked in aerospace and computer technology, is well known to many science fiction fans for both his fiction and non-fiction, the latter explaining the science behind the fiction. His most recent novel expands the techno-thriller genre as one involving psychopathic intent from an unexpected source.
In the near future, while searching for iridium on the dark side of the Moon, a lunar prospector finds an intriguing object, resulting in the involvement of American and Russian spy agencies. Marcus Judson heads an American team and finds himself reluctantly cooperating with Russian’s Yevgeny Rudin. They do so in order to keep their investigation hidden from others. Complications further arise when Valerie Clayburn, Marcus’s pregnant wife, leases a robot to monitor the alleged surveying activities due to concern about her new husband.
The clandestine lunar explorers discover the remains of alien artefacts within a lava tube, which leads to speculations such as: why did these extraterrestrials establish an apparently-secret base on Earth’s Moon? Lerner then deftly unveils the functionality and operating principles of many of these items, which are generally more advanced versions of our technology. The humans also determine some of the biology of these visitors. From isotope analysis, they determine that the now-abandoned base was established millions of years ago. However, some catastrophic event had destroyed it.
The situation dramatically changes when two humans are mysteriously killed. The big reveal happens when a rebooted alien computer shows events such as Earth as it was during the time of dinosaur extinction. The aliens also apparently had their own war with another species. Marcus and Yevgeny spearhead an audacious plan to repurpose an alien spacecraft to intercept an asteroid which has been redirected to impact the Earth due to extraterrestrial preprogramming. Here the action accelerates with a series of sabotage attempts by alien artificial intelligence. The story ends with a dramatic rescue and Marcus arriving back on Earth in time for the birth his son—as well as tragedy when another dies.
During this narrative Lerner shows how both future-human and alien technology might work. The author packs the narrative with details such as how one is unable to see a laser beam in a vacuum. Another detail is the aliens using a base eight numbering system because they have two hands, each with two fingers and two thumbs. And I enjoyed reading this gem of a Russian saying: Poverty is a sin that the rich never forgive.
Whereas some science fiction focuses more on societal implications of technology, this plot-driven thriller is an action-packed epic where the characters manage to achieve what even they thought impossible. Despite audacity, such as repurposing extraterrestrial nuclear fusion technology, these feats nevertheless are more achievable than those of a typical Hollywood blockbuster. There is page-turning suspense with characters who are also handling personal issues. Although both were initially suspicious of each other, Marcus and Yevgeny eventually form a friendship where each is willing to die for each other.
The additional use of an alien point of view is effective, although I wish the author employed it even more and dived deeper into the alien mindset, albeit at the risk of reader confusion if too many non-human constructs are employed. Also, in my opinion, Lerner could have included more philosophical aspects of first contact, such as the ethics of extraterrestrial colonization. For example: how would alien societies appear to us should we encounter them in the future? Occasionally, I found the portrayal of inner turmoil and motivations a bit distanced. Nevertheless, Lerner’s clinical style for the alien AI point of view is completely appropriate and thoroughly enjoyable.
In conclusion, Déjà Doomed is science fiction adventure loaded with highly engaging storytelling. Plus, the novel effectively conveys the ways, means and motivations driving a space-faring society. Again, Lerner has delivered. And again, Earth has escaped by the skin of its teeth. Could this be a warning to heed? Déjà Doomed, indeed.
© 2021 Peter Spasov
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