Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Going "Wayback"

Thirty years ago, I went through a science fiction phase in my reading. I believe it started with Frank Herbert's Dune series; by the time the phase ended, I had devoured Robert Heinlein, Robert Silverberg, Arthur Clarke, Orson Scott Card, Ben Bova and scores of others, all of them great storytellers. Previously, the closest I had come to science fiction was Michael Crichton -- The Andromeda Strain, Terminal Man, other best sellers, and then the mega-hit (and mega-movie) Jurassic Park.

There was a gap for me between Terminal Man and Jurassic Park -- I was on to other genres. But what always impressed me about Crichton was his ability to embrace science in his novels, and make the speculative totally believable.

I'm almost finished the novel Wayback by Sam Batterman, and I may have found another Michael Crichton.

Wayback is about an idea -- the idea that scientists have figured out a way to travel back in time, and a team goes to a time shortly before the Great Flood of Genesis. The scientists on the team represent the gamut of belief -- from ardent Christians to atheists. They don't know that Middle Eastern terrorists are right behind them, terrorists who are not interested in scientific knowledge but something sinister.

It sounds implausible. It sounds like believability will be a problem. But you start reading the novel and wham!, it's got you. Sam Batterman has that same ability to utilize science and speculative science that Michael Crichton had. The breadth of the research he's undertaken for the novel is extraordinary. And the novel does what good speculative novels have to do -- suck you into the story and move fast. You find yourself exploring the world of Noah with all the wonder of the novel's fictional scientific team.

I'll have a more in-depth review, but I can say right now that Wayback is a terrific, and thought-provoking, read.

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