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Omega Sol
Scott Mackay
Roc, 357 pages

Omega Sol
Scott Mackay
Scott Mackay has published science fiction novels Outpost, The Meek and Orbis, as well as the Barry Gilbert mystery series and a World War II thriller, A Friend in Barcelona. He's also the author of numerous short stories, and has been awarded the Okanagan Award for literary short fiction and the Crime Writers of Canada's Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story. He lives in Toronto, Canada.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Tides
SF Site Review: Omnifix
SF Site Review: Orbis
SF Site Review: Outpost

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

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In the not-so-near future, mankind has finally established a presence on the Moon, a scientific research station called Gettysburg. It's there, as a team of scientists perform a complicated experiment, that history is made, when a strange silver sphere of giant proportions appears unexpectedly, leaving destruction and chaos in its wake. Utterly ignoring the humans affected by its arrival, it sets up residence in one of the Moon's craters, before creating dozens of even stranger silver towers, which fly off to points around the Moon. Clearly alien, clearly existing on a scale we can barely even conceive, and most definitely acting according to an agenda all its own, the sphere, nicknamed Alpha Vehicle, is inscrutable and untouchable. Soon, studies ascertain that it has come millions of light years overnight, it's still communicating with someone or something in a far distant galaxy, and it exists in a hyperdimensional state of being unlike anything we've ever encountered. And it has come to steal the hydrogen from our sun, to speed up its life cycle, five billion years of potential squandered in mere months, turning our star into a red giant. Oh... and incidentally destroying the Earth.

Only one man understands what's going on. Dr. Cameron Conrad, a brilliant scientist who has been experimenting with hyperdimensionality, is perhaps the only man alive capable of comprehending Alpha Vehicle's nature, or the language used by the so-called Builders who sent it. In fact, it seems as though the Builders may be trying to forge a connection with him... like humans communicating with ants, while the construction equipment steadily rolls towards the anthill. With a very definite deadline approaching, Conrad has to convince everyone that he might be able to forge that bond of understanding with the Builders, before something terribly happens, before the Builders dismiss us as ants to be ignored and accidentally crushed underfoot. But military and political factions have their own ideas on how to solve a crisis, and the imminent demise of our sun isn't exactly helping things. As tensions mount and natural disasters begin to assault the Earth, only a tiny handful of people, Conrad's handpicked team, are left to race against the clock, to convince a hyperdimensional race of untold power and complexity, that the Earth deserves to survive.

Scott Mackay does a great job at telling the story of humanity on the edge as disaster looms, keeping the story focused and personal as it follows several protagonists through the course of events, although I was far more fascinated by Conrad's end of things than I was by Colonel Timothy Pittman, a retired soldier who's called back into service when it looks like the crisis requires a military response. Pittman, pretty much unlikeable from the start, serves to fulfill the almost-stock position of "shoot first and ask questions later" military leader that these stories always seem to need, and the progression of his story never inspires sympathy for him, no matter how bad his fortunes get. True, his actions serve as a catalyst, but I'm not so sure they were entirely needed for the story to be a successful one.

Where Mackay really shines is in the interrelated areas of his aliens and his science. I'll be the first to admit that hard science isn't anywhere near my specialty, much less advanced mathematics or hyperdimensionality research, but Mackay makes it all seem plausible in the context of the story, and the explanations certainly seem to make sense under the circumstances, and that's good enough for me. He's clearly working with some ideas and concepts that are way outside the norm, and it makes for a gripping story. His aliens are, well, properly alien, existing on levels far beyond our normal range of understanding, their motivations as mysterious as their natures, and that works for me as well. There's a grand scale involved here, enough so that when the Builders finally do find a way to communicate and explain on our level, it's suitably disconcerting. It's nice to get aliens that exist beyond our scope of thought, with whom we have to struggle to communicate (and even then, it's touch-and-go.) Mackay plays off the inscrutability of the Builders with the natural human responses, to tell this story of averting the Apocalypse, and once I started, I had trouble putting the book down. Omega Sol is a nice change of pace from some of the science fiction franchises out there where aliens are just people with funny names and bumpy foreheads and relatively normal motivations. I may not have always understood the science of the book, or sympathized with one of the main point-of-view characters, but I still thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I'll keep an eye out for future releases by Scott Mackay.

Copyright © 2008 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.


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