Thomas Hubschman,
Space Ark
(1981; Safa SF, 2002)

Thomas Hubschman's Space Ark has some good ideas and plot lines. It's also an easy read. The story begins with an intriguing opening scene: "Morning sunlight streamed in through the big, cathedral windows. Twenty mental retards were at play on the smooth, polished floor."

Good start. I wanted to know how the hero was institutionalized and what would happen next. Walter Centaurus has just returned from the Centaurus star system with knowledge of a disaster that threatens humanity. We soon learn he was framed by an unscrupulous Federation President who is trying to take personal advantage of the approaching catastrophe. To fight back, Walter teams up with members of a Simminoid underground. This leads to scenes that could have been a prequel to Planet of the Apes. The simians help Hubschman show how easy it is to accept society's common "knowledge" and attitudes, even when logic or greater empathy would expose arbitrary prejudices. Mentally developed animals are a key part of the story line, and Hubschman hints at support for activists, but takes the story another way. That way leads to the space ark of the book's title and to the continuing struggle of its passengers with the Confederation President.

The main elements of the plot are promising, but lack the detail and elaboration a reader needs to make the often unbelievable speculations of sci-fi feel real. (Try Peter Hamilton's incredibly detailed Reality Dysfunction series for the other extreme.) Settings and characterizations suffer from the same lack of detail, and character actions aren't always plausible. At one point the hero blithely accepts an injection from the bad guys when they tell him he may have been exposed to a disease. Turns out they gave him truth serum. Has a "Duh" ever been more appropriate?

It could have been a better book, but I can see why it's being reissued 21 years after its original publication. Many will find it entertaining and want to know if Walter Centaurus can save mankind. Sorry, I've been sworn to secrecy.

- Rambles
written by Ron Bierman
published 28 December 2002

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