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Footprints of Thunder
James F. David
Tor Books, 484 pages

A review by Leon Olszewski

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According to the tabloids -- and a handful of more reputable sources -- there have been many mysterious appearances and disappearances throughout history: reports of objects falling from the sky (dried fish, grain, etc.); disappearances of flights over the Bermuda Triangle; people spontaneously bursting into flame. Current science has no known explanation. But what if these events all tied together, and a single cohesive theory could explain the phenomena?

Footprints of Thunder postulates such a theory, and shows what happens when the rate of occurrence begins to drastically accelerate. Eventually there comes a cataclysmic reordering of our reality:

Somewhere over the Atlantic the laws of time and space were suddenly rewritten, and the resulting effect began to spread east and west. Land suddenly appeared on the ocean -- not dropped but layed [sic] down gently on a watery foundation that could not support it, and soon, like ancient Atlantis, those lands were lost beneath the waves. In the skies flocks of seagulls in flight disappeared, as did the military and civilian aircraft in the affected regions. Tourist, pilot, exchange student, airman, and junketing congressman were all treated equally and ruthlessly...

As the effect reached the East Coast it continued on land. Streets, cars, homes, office buildings, and fast-food restaurants were replaced with forest, grassland, ice, lakes, and ocean... The effect was systemic, but not thorough. As the effect washed across the planet's surface, it rippled, leaving some regions untouched. People, awakened by the thunderous booms, looked to see neighborhoods sundered, their houses intact, the other side of the street impossibly changed.

The story follows several groups of people, some introduced prior to the change, and others only after. In Oregon there is a University group researching the unexplained phenomena, whose members hope to predict the sudden events. This dedicated team travels across the drastically altered landscape like tornado-chasers, correlating new events and hoping to witness an actual change, fine-tuning the parameters of their equations as they go.

In Florida we follow a family which has recently set sail for the Caribbean. An old woman in a rundown neighborhood in New York City finds a lush jungle across the street, populated with dinosaurs. And of course, we have the group advising the president. (Is it de rigeur that every major SF catastrophe story include a group advising the President?)

Footprints of Thunder is James F. David's first novel. In classic SF fashion, he has crafted a believable scientific scenario for heretofore unexplainable events. His characters struggle through situations which they would have a hard time imagining, yet they maintain their individuality nicely without flattening into cardboard figures or stereotypes.

My only real criticism concerns the ending, which seemed both to lack closure and to have been a bit rushed, as if Mr. David had been trying to make a deadline. In one sense, however, the lack of closure does make the novel a tad more realistic. After all, how often does one truly attain closure after a catastrophe?

Copyright © 1998 by Leon Olszewski

Leon Olszewski has read science fiction and fantasy for most of his life. He works at Spyglass, Inc. as their Manager of Network Services.

Footprints of Thunder
James F. David
Footprints of Thunder is James F. David's first novel. His second one, Fragments has since been published.

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