Reviewer Steve Moore: Steve is a full-time writer and ex-scientist. Besides his many technical publications, he has written six sci-fi thrillers (one a novel for young adults), many short stories, and frequent comments on writing and the digital revolution in publishing. His interests also include physics, mathematics, genetics, robotics, forensics, and scientific ethics. Follow Here for his WEBSITE.
I am ambivalent about this book. In Part I the author has an interesting if slightly incoherent story to tell. He runs out of steam in Part II. Still, it’s a fun read, with caveats. For the latter, read on.
I’m always reluctant to criticize presentation. If the author has traveled the difficult trail through the wild and traditional publishing landscape (agent, editor, publisher, marketer), he has little control over presentation. POD is another matter. This book is an example of the worst thing that can happen to a POD book: it is very badly in need of editing. As a writer, most of the time I can “see around” the required corrections and continue reading. I know what to look for. But the average reader is liable to lose patience. Even I got lost with phrases like “…Charley glanced at his.” His what? Watch? PDA? Secret weapon? Belly button?
I know it’s not a fun task to edit. I hate it, in fact. There are several tricks to editing that any author can use, but a book review is not the place to dwell on them. Let it be said that using a service like Lulu where all responsibility is placed on the POD author, editing included, can be asking for trouble. If the author doesn’t want to spend the time on editing, there are editing services out there. Even submitting the book or the first chapters to an agent requires close editing. Many agents move a submission from the slush pile to the circular file with lightning speed when they see bad editing.
The POD author also has to worry about tasks like formatting, cover design, marketing and many other things that even a small publisher or different POD outfit might perform for free or minimal cost. Both formatting and cover design are inferior in Mr. Peck’s book. While it is true that you can’t judge a book by its cover, a catchy title and cover are essential for marketing. This novel has a catchy title, I suppose, but it is not obvious that it is sci-fi. It could be a missive from the Pope.
Enough said about presentation. Let me jump to the real subject of any review, the story. In Part I, Mr. Peck presents the reader with a different twist on the classic sci-fi theme that a specially designed virus can make everyone brilliant, or stupid, or super strong, or…you get the idea. The twist here is that the virus makes everyone good, that is, everyone becomes nice to everyone else. The virus should possibly be called “the Golden Rule virus” because that is the idea of the original Millennium project. The project becomes corrupted by many different agendas so the Convocation comes into being to put it back on the right track, a Millennium 2.0, if you will. But the Convocation is corrupted from within by a mercenary general with a Hitler complex.
Here’s where the incoherency hits me hard. I wasn’t able to figure out whether that general is motivated by Islamic fundamentalism to create a world-wide caliphate—there are an awful lot of bomb-vested jihadists around that follow the Convocation’s (the general’s?) orders to set off the C4 and send themselves on their merry way to rendezvous with their virgins. And does Devon have bad intentions or is he the altruistic but mad scientist that the general tolerates and uses to further his own agenda?
Charles Henry of “the Organization” is the main character. He’s like a CIA operative on steroids, more Bond than James is, with the usual license to kill, but the exact identity of his agency is never established. Since this story is set in the future, I suppose that this identity doesn’t matter. Charley is at least an American true blood—he drives a ‘Vette instead of an Aston-Martin. He and everyone else in the world is affected by the virus. The rogue general’s troops, supposedly vaccinated against the virus, also return to their homes as good boys and girls when the antidote fails.
I was a wee bit troubled by the fact that many of the bad guys here are gals, even Charley’s daughter. And Charley’s wife is a real wacko until her necronymphomania is “cured” by the virus. But there are many other interesting characters, male and female, good guys and villains, although keeping them straight is not helped by out-of-place flashbacks (I can maneuver around those too—but can you?).
That old and familiar fellow Darwin is really the main character of Part II as we head into Millennium 3.0. You guessed it. Since the virus acts on human DNA, it and its action on humans can mutate. People start returning to their irascible selves. Some become super intelligent or grow another finger. (Why not longer thumbs from texting?)
Charley, who has become a civic leader, is almost killed in Part II and his wife and good daughter are killed by the bad daughter. Charley is snapped out of his depression by one of the six-fingered (rather, twelve-fingered, six on each hand) mutants that is bent on being the new Freud. The therapist, who works for the Organization, has this ability to get into people’s heads, a useful tool for any therapist worth his salt.
I shouldn’t trivialize. The themes treated here are timely and important as we muddle along in this post-Human-genome century of bioengineering. They are not trivial as we debate the scientific ethics of stem cells, bioengineered foods, and cloning. Yes, even clones come up in the novel—some bad guys in Part II want to clone Charley as the perfect warrior type. (There is at least one bad Hollywood movie with that theme.)
This novel is a cross between thriller and sci-fi. I’ll call it a sci-fi thriller, or perhaps techno-thriller. My own books are in this genre and it has a lot of potential, but, gee whiz, you have to describe believable science. Mr. Peck for the most part doesn’t dwell on how the virus does its thing, which is OK. (Jules Verne in Two Thousand Leagues Under the Sea bores the reader to tears with his description of undersea flora and fauna.) However, I don’t believe the dispersal mechanism proposed for the virus can be effective—you would need tons of the stuff to cover the Earth, not just 28 vials. Or maybe the virus multiplies rapidly as it comes down?
My real complaint is about a gizmo the author introduces. The “quantum gun” seems completely unnecessary to the plot. Everything the author does with it could be done with stun darts that zoos use to control animals, some non-lethal nerve gas, or some future generalization of a taser, for example. Frankly, for me the quantum gun conjured up images of Bugs Bunny’s fights with the Martian and his “Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator.” Sorry, Mr. Peck, I know quantum mechanics. It just doesn’t work the way you describe.
So there you have it, except for one
thing. Like I said and in spite of all the negatives I have listed,
The Millennium Convocation was entertaining and a fun read. Maybe
you should try it, but…a serious caveat emptor.
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