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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

       
Blank Slate

Copyright 1984 by Mark J. McGarry

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Good (2/5)

I first read this on the 8th July 2002.

An alien race gave Earth the Stargate and access to the ten thousand planets of the Stargate network. Humanity spread out through the stargate and colonised empty planets on this network.

But then, after nine years of colonisation, an alien attack burst forth through the gate: poisonous virii flooded the air and alien warriors stormed through. By the time Earth destroyed the gate, half a billion people had already died and more died in the months following. Contact was lost with the colonies and of course most of the colonies failed, since their viability was based on the assumption of the instantaneous transport of people and commodities from Earth.

With Earth ruined, humanity takes shelter in citidels, vast domed cities, and of those that stayed outside, most died. Now most of Earth is ruled by the Triumvirate Synody while in space, the Starforce patrol to protect against any future attack.

A hundred years later, Earth still fears a future invasion from space by the monsters who attacked before. However, a faster-than-light drive is finally invented. Earth uses this to reach the old colonies and re-establish contact with the lost colonies. Most of the colonies are of course just dead ruins, but some have survived.

The colony of Relayer poses a more difficult problem. It was founded by dissidents and its forced separation from Earth has perhaps encouraged the colonists in their extremist views. This is more likely if the colonists find out that they are the only survivors of their particular racial and religious affiliations, their earthbound brothers having died outside the citidels.

So Kieran Seacord, artist and unwilling government agent, is ordered to join, under cover, the mission that will reopen contact with Relayer. With sufficient surgery and training he will pass himself off as Brian Kuhl, independent movie producer.

I started this somewhat dubiously. Much as I like stargate, aliens and much as I began to like the irresistible Sara, Kieran's personal AI partner, I was less than enthusiastic about reading yet another novel about a secret government agent saving the world, especially as an independent movie producer. Within a few pages, however, I was intrigued. This is a gripping but thoughtful novel set in quite a special world. Yes, the elements of this future are commonplace, they've been used many times in good and bad novels, but McGarry managed to squeeze something new out of their combination and achieved an SF conspiracy thriller of some quality. However, I have to admit that I became less enamoured of the protagonist as the novel progressed and rather more interested in this future world.

So what's it got? aliens, a ruined Earth, the stargate, FTL, secret societies and their inevitable conspiracies, artificial intelligence and holographic projection. What more could you want? Well, more on the alien monsters, actually.

Loaded on the 24th September 2002.
    
Cover of Blank Slate