by Robert Charles Wilson
What if humanity had been at peace since World War I? What if we found out that was due to an alien entity subtly altering communication to achieve more peaceful outcomes? Is its interference really a bad thing? What does it want in return? What if there was a possibility we could destroy it – would we, should we? Interesting questions all around, and all questions brought up by this book.
It’s the story of Cassie, a girl who lives in the USA in 2014 – but not quite our USA and not quite our 2014. There have been no big wars since 1914, and humanity has somehow skipped aside form developing any advanced weaponry, tools for space exploration, or even the internet. Cassie’s parents were part of a group who found out the root cause of all of this – an alien ‘hypercolony’ that lives in the outer atmosphere of Earth. They were killed for that knowledge, along with many other members of the group. Cassie, along with her aunt and brother, have been in relative hiding ever since, trying to escape the notice of the hypercolony. But of course that doesn’t last. What follows is an intense adventure story riddled with moral/philosophical questions. There are some predictable points, and some surprises. It’s a good read, and a relatively quick one, and the ending is intriguing. I’m going to call it soft science fiction, since I get the feeling from how the author glosses over certain points about how things works that the actual science wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny. But I like it all the same. If you’re in the mood for an alternate history sci-fi thriller, give this a go.