Warning: This book depicts violence, gore, and man-eating aliens in mild detail and contains slightly sexually-suggestive material. If you are offended by such subjects or otherwise wish to avoid them, proceed with caution.
On Friday I posted an alien writing prompt and briefly discussed two science fiction novels I have been reading. As promised, I am reviewing one of those books today, The Origin of F.O.R.C.E. by Sam B. Miller II. This novel explores the possibility of aliens and a fictionalized initial human/alien encounter.
Roswell, New Mexico: July 8, 1947. It’s a day which thrives in history thanks to the UFO and paranormal communities. We all know, yet also don’t know, what happened that night. At first, the military told the public a weather balloon had been shot down. Since then, so many different versions of the story and theories about the event have emerged that it’s hard for any single person to keep track. However, there is one theory which has stuck in the minds of Americans, some as a serious matter and others as a joke: the fallen craft was, in fact, extraterrestrial.
Miller’s The Origin of F.O.R.C.E. follows this theory for that night but with a new twist. Rather than the traditional Gray which is most often portrayed, the aliens who piloted the craft are actually a reptilian race called the Chrysallaman. Telepathic, technologically-advanced and enhanced, vicious, and dominating, the Chrysallaman could easily overthrow the human race—and that’s exactly what they plan to do. They aren’t deterred when one of their scouts is shot down and all the crew killed by humans; in fact, it motivates the commanding officer, Hisspat Zeck, to take revenge on all mankind, if the Chrysallaman Emperor lets him live.
Unknown to Zeck, one Chrysallaman has survived the crash: WrrNrr Zennk, the twelve-year-old son of DrrTrr Zennk, the captain of the scout. Overpowered and captured by human Major James Blunt, WrrNrr—known to humans as Whatsit—holds the key to forewarning the U.S. military of the impending threat and preparing Earth for invasion. With 65-70 years before the Chrysallaman Empire returns, General Matt Collier compiles a committee of experts from scientists to military personnel with the purpose of designing a defense plan for the entire planet. On one side are McPherson and Heinbaum, two extremely intelligent opposites working to reverse-engineer the Chrysallaman weapons. On the other side are James Blunt and Diane Hoffman—with the help of Lucy Smith, Mike Jenson, Tom LeBlanc, and Whatsit—trying to genetically modify humans to be a match for the Chyrsallaman aliens in physical combat.
Over 459 pages, Miller exposes readers to military preparations spanning decades, starting with one generation and being passed to the next. Miller also explores the interpersonal relationships of the members of the committee and the effect that this project has on their lives, both bad and good. While everything seems to be progressing in the committee’s favor, threats on two fronts emerge: the long-awaited Chrysallaman ships and, more immediately, humans who fear what they don’t understand.
Will mankind be ready once the 70 years are up? Who will stand in the way of progress? And, most importantly, how will the long-awaited battle between humans and Chrysallamans end?
As I made clear in Friday’s writing prompt, while I have an embarrassing amount of knowledge regarding the alien phenomenon, I’ve never really been a fan of first-encounter science fiction. Honestly, before this book and the other novel I’m currently reading, only Ray Bradbury’s short story “Mars is Heaven!” truly captured my attention. I’m just not into alien invasions. Nevertheless, Miller’s book brings a level of intrigue, depth, and humanity to the invasion/first-encounter story line which I have not seen before.
Although it is around 459 pages long, the novel is a quick read once you get started. The writing is simple and almost like a modern storyteller in its form. Sometimes the style leads to unnecessary amounts of exposition, at least as far as the plot goes, but I enjoyed having the more in-depth view of the characters which this exposition provided. It gives multiple layers to many of the characters, even the ones whom I would argue border on stereotypes and clichés.
Along with the quick pace, Miller presents a compelling plot. I quite enjoyed the book spanning across so many years, although I can understand how some people may not have the patience for such a long-term setting. American pop culture has become conditioned to story lines of immediate alien invasion but that trend sets unrealistic standards. The time frame Miller uses makes the scenario much more plausible, and I think that part of that foresight is due to Miller’s scientific background.
Miller heavily explains the scientific concepts behind the technological and biological advances made by the humans. Some readers may be put off by such detail, but I found Miller’s writing helped me understand the “science” of this “science fiction” without too many holdups. In fact, I loved that the author took the time to think these aspects through and trusted that the reader can follow along. I hate when books underestimate the reader’s ability to understand harder concepts.
That being said, the explanations did lend to the excess in exposition, particularly in scientists’ dialogue. It didn’t bother me for the most part but, at points, the over-exposition bogs down the narrative.
My favorite character, by far, is Whatsit. Although an alien, Whatsit is no monster. He is nothing more than a frightened kid on the defensive when Blunt finds him; once his new “Master” takes command and he is exposed to more humans, Whatsit grows into a very strong, empathetic, and hilarious being capable of expressing a wide range of emotions. Whatsit, despite the tainting influence of his father, is very open-minded and brave, given his circumstances, and he becomes the constant the reader can latch onto for the entire story.
Admittedly, I had a stronger preference for the first half of the book, but I think I’m biased. I am fascinated by people who seem to wield unusual abilities, and so the search for “uniques” in the beginning is right up my alley. Miller also throws in a corrupt “church mafia,” as I will call it, which I found both entertaining and crucial as social commentary on mankind’s fear of the unknown. Still, the second half of the book kept my attention, and even piqued my interest during the alien invasion, in which I’m not typically all that interested.
This book is both forward-thinking and classic science fiction. Unfortunately, with the “classic science fiction” trait comes some pitfalls in the writing. Namely, Miller inevitably uses the over-done scene of landing in front of the White House, although he certainly makes up for the cliché of that scene with an unexpected twist that had me laughing out loud. As I mentioned before, there are characters who seem rather stereotypical and cliché. The military generals for the Chrysallaman military have no conscience and are just evil, soulless beings. While Whatsit more than makes up for the alien cliché, I still wished I could’ve had a little something I could relate to in these more “evil” aliens. Your Grace also comes across as a rather one-dimensional mafia-style church villain, but I think that may have been by design, both for social commentary and comedic effect.
Throughout the story there are grammatical errors, mostly in the areas of improper punctuation, a lack of punctuation, and extra/missing quotation marks. Regardless, they did not detract from my reading experience.
I could go on and on about this book, particularly how it could have been a series within itself and the potent parallels between the alien invasion and European colonization of the “New” World. However, I will leave my review at this: Miller’s The Origin of F.O.R.C.E. held my attention from start until end. I became emotionally-invested in the characters and their relationships, and I wanted to know what happened once the Chrysallamans arrived. This book has convinced me to pursue Miller’s writing further, and I am looking forward to getting my hands on the second book of The Origin of F.O.R.C.E. series.
To buy The Origin of F.O.R.C.E., follow this Amazon link.
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