(Reviewed: May, 2016)
J.M. Erickson’s two science fiction “novellas” — printed together in Intelligent Design: Revelations to Apocalypse — deal with the question of our origination and how we would handle impending destruction.
“Revelations: Novella I” takes place 60 million years before today, when the inexplicable collision of two planetoids in the solar system threatens life on Mars. Meanwhile, in the present day, scientists on Earth nearly discover Terra, a cloaked neighboring planet, only to have their research disappear or get destroyed when they get too close.
“Apocalypse: Novella II” picks up two years after the present-day events in “Revelations.” Here, Earth, Venus, Mars and Terra face a catastrophe as Jupiter transforms into a small, second sun.
An undetectable planet behind the sun, on which an entire humanoid species resides, presents an intriguing premise. And the idea of Master Architects and Originators — beings crafting the futures of the planets and terraforming them with delicate attention to detail, as introduced in the first novella— calls humanity’s origin story into question in an intriguing way.
Unfortunately, the stories are burdened with too many characters, making the reading experience laborious. (Save for one moment in each novella, the characters’ paths barely cross between the two books.) It’s telling that the author felt it necessary to add a “List of Characters” section prior to the first novella. The book also uses clichéd science fiction plot devices: scientists close to finding out “the truth” disappear; government moles conspire to conquer the newly discovered planet for themselves, etc.
Typically, a novella is between 17,500 and 40,000 words and is normally a stand-alone work. Here, however, each “novella” is much longer (190 pages and 189 pages). The author might consider dropping the moniker “novella” and simply calling his book a novel in two parts.
As it stands, this offering attempts to pack too much into its pages with too little that’s fresh and inventive, resulting in a story with limited appeal for science fiction fans.