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Steve Alten
Forge, 431 pages

Steve Alten
Steve Alten holds a master's degree in sports medicine and has a Ph.D. from Temple University. An avid amateur oceanographer, Alten has been studying Megalodons for over ten years. He lives with his wife and three children in South Florida.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Goliath
SF Site Review: MEG

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Charlene Brusso

Resurrection, sequel to Domain, continues a story based on the Mayan creation myth, the Popul Vul: a hero sacrifices himself to save humanity and is trapped for eternity in the Underworld Xibalba. Later his wife bears twin sons, the "Hero Twins", blessed with superhuman abilities, who descend into Xibalba to rescue their father. In Steve Alten's re-engineered legend, Michael Gabriel sacrifices himself to destroy a giant "trans-dimensional" serpent during the Rapture of 2012 to save Earth from alien invasion, leaving behind his pregnant lover Dominique Vasquez, who lives in hiding, desperate to protect their unborn children. Gabriel's enemies are led by billionaire Alabama defense contractor-turned-televangelist Peter Mabus, leader of the Fundamentalist Christian political party "People First," who has hired an assassin who's also an ex-CIA mole, matricide and pedophile (as if being an assassin isn't bad enough) to kill Dominique.

Fortunately Gabriel's aunt Evelyn Strongin, psychiatrist and self-professed necromancer, appears to help Dominique. Born of a long line of women with skill at "inter-dimensional communication", Evelyn speaks with the souls of the dead using her sensitivity to a "special kind of high energy." She says Michael is trapped in purgatory, where he is tortured by a powerful poltergeist (here "Poltergeists are the false prophets the Bible warns us about"), which is also torturing other lost souls like him, called the Fallen. "All are trapped in an equilibrium of existence, a higher temporal plane... Michael's presence... has created a third-dimensional (sic) loop of space-time. The loop must be broken to save Michael, the souls of the Fallen, and humanity."

The battle for Michael's soul will fall to Dominique's soon-to-be-born twin sons. But they will be opposed by evil earthly forces, as well as an Abomination, another child born with extraordinary powers.

In the meantime Ennis Chaney, the first African-American President of the United States, is briefed by the military about top secret project MAJESTIC-12, the study of an alien space vessel hidden beneath the Kukulcan Pyramid in Chichen Itza, the ruins of an ancient Mayan city on the Yucatan peninsula. The star cruiser, Balam, will only unlock for people with a specific genetic code: Michael Gabriel and, presumably, his offspring. Fortunately Chaney's agents locate Dominique before Mabus's assassin does.

Chaney takes a fatherly attitude toward Dominique and her children, even stands in as godfather to the twins. Precocious Jacob and less enthusiastic brother Manny are raised in privileged, top-secret seclusion. Although both are far beyond the average child in mental and physical ability, Manny lags, questioning everything, from his brother's maniacal belief in a Bible Code which appears to parallel the Popul Vul prophecy, to Jacob's wholehearted absorption of everything from martial arts to advanced science.

Then Jacob starts to hear voices: the same genes that carry Michael Gabriel's "transhuman" abilities are also linked with the genes for schizophrenia. Meanwhile, the third child, the supposed Abomination, is born into less nurturing circumstances. With a family history of drunkenness and insanity, baby Lilith Eve Robinson loses her mother moments after birth when the woman is murdered by her husband, who expected a son. Later Lilith suffers continuous abuse at the hands of her foster father, a crazed Fundamentalist Minister who claims he is only doing the work of the Lord by beating and raping the evil out of her.

Lilith is likewise intellectually advanced, and also hears voices in her head. One is an invisible companion, symptomatic of the schizophrenia which accompanies her superior intelligence. The other voice belongs to Jacob Gabriel. Throughout childhood the two meet in a mind-space they call "the nexus", where she tells him of her foster father's escalating brutality, and Jacob swears he will never hurt her. Unfortunately for Lilith, Jacob has also been telepathically contacted by his father Michael, who tells Jacob to break off contact with the girl. Dutifully, Jacob does, leaving Lilith no choice but to accept true Evil and descend into black-hearted and calculating sociopathy.

Meanwhile Michael telepathically relates great swaths of back story. In a future which hasn't happened yet, Michael and Lilith become part of a colony headed to Mars, only to be swept off-course and stranded on an unknown planet, where the water will swell human brains and alter human DNA, turning them into "Transhumans.' Lilith's evil son Devlin gains control over the colonists, but Michael escapes to a small moon where he finds the star cruiser Balam. He uses the ship to travel by wormhole back to Earth's past, hoping to change the future.

Eventually Manny drops out of the picture, Lilith allies with Mabus just long enough to take control of the largest multinational corporation in the world, and the Earth faces desolation by a massive hurricane and a giant exploding "caldera"(sic -- the caldera is the big crater left over after magma pockets inside the volcano explode) in Yellowstone Park. Jacob and Dominique set off in Balam for Xibalba, to face Lilith and Devlin, and prevent them from freeing Lucifer from the Underworld.

Although Alten deserves credit for use of the little-known Popul Vul, this sci-fi thriller-wannabe stalls quickly under the weight of one-dimensional characters, sloppy science, and a herky-jerky plot choked by infodumps. The first rule of thriller writing is that the action should entice, but that rule has not been enforced here. Cameos by the USAF Blue Book files, the Nazca lines, and space aliens cavorting in Mesoamerican ruins, all strongly evoke the wacky UFO-logy of Eric Von Daniken. Add to that a double helping of New Age mysticism, and what you get isn't a crisp, taut tale of super-science, but a creaky 70s paranormal fantasy.

Copyright © 2004 Charlene Brusso

Charlene's sixth grade teacher told her she would burn her eyes out before she was 30 if she kept reading and writing so much. Fortunately he was wrong. Her work has also appeared in Aboriginal SF, Amazing Stories, Dark Regions, MZB's Fantasy Magazine, and other genre magazines.

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