Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Index


A novel by Barry B. Connors (2016, Barry B. Connors)

The aliens in the spheres contact humanity, explaining what happened, while Cory tries to lead the survivors to safety.




Read July 4th to 11th, 2016 on my iPad  
    I liked the concept of the aliens and what they did to the world. The book, however, didn’t have the impact that the previous two did, and the ending left me feeling that not everything should be as peaceful as it’s depicted.

Spoiler review:

This book, the third in the trilogy, goes by really fast. When it reached the end, I was surprised, though it reaches a proper conclusion and wouldn’t have much more to tell. It just seemed short compared to the two previous installments. As with the first two installments, I read this book as a final draft, but I don’t expect that it changed much afterwards.

In general, I found the first few chapters to be weaker than in the previous books. I believe this is due to the large amount of discussion that takes place. It is quick and snappy, but there is little else happening except the discussion. At this point, the plot needs lots of exposition, which is fine. But rather than the small details that I remember from the first book, as people did stuff while talking, here the first chapters are almost just talking. Once the caravan gets on the road, this seems to improve.

The biggest draw from the first book, for me at least, was that Cory had internal struggles about what to do. This book doesn’t cover these kinds of struggles. For example, when Cory is alone observing the spheres in chapter 1, the narration describes what he does, but not what he is thinking. When he was alone in No Time to Scream, however, the internal struggles were the most intriguing parts. Now he knows better what he needs to do, so there is less internal struggle, but we are not privy to many of his thoughts during that time. I liked better the sequence when he was alone after Rob was shot, as he did have a little more internalization, worrying about what Shannon would think, knowing that she would come out to find him.

The dialog carries most of the story, often without a break to give us the thoughts of the point-of-view character. When the characters are doing something, like moving around, driving, administering medical care, etc…, the flow gets easier, as the dialog is interspersed with descriptions. But when discussions are between various members of the group, I think it needs more internalization.

The story picks up seconds after No Time To Waste ends, with Cory and Shannon in the building at the edge of the city, where Cory sees the spheres returning. There is an overall plot where Shannon feels completely hysterical when she is not near Cory, which I found a little annoying, but given that he is the chosen instrument for the rebuilding of humanity, I guess it could be the influence of the spheres acting out.

Shannon has turned into a strong character, who tempers Cory often through the novel. As the novels (books 2 and 3) go on, she defers to him less and less, becoming a leader in her own way. Yes, she still gets them more coffee than they get her, but it is more in the nature of a person supporting a leader, though sometimes it still comes across more as a woman serving a man. That has been a problem permeating this trilogy, though it is a lot less prevalent in book three.

Sex between Cory and Shannon was vaguely hinted at in book 2, where at first he couldn’t look at her coming out of the shower, and by the end they were talking easily as she stepped out. Here it sometimes continues to be vague (one chapter starts with the idea that morning came earlier than expected, and implies it was because they were making love), but eventually it comes out in Shannon’s desire to have children and her attempt to forcibly seduce Cory.

I think the idea of an alien species that harvests innocuous stuff from various planets, but which turns out to be accidentally deadly on Earth, is great! That they are willing to sacrifice millions of their own species to correct the mistake shows how much remorse they feel. The explanation scenes were kept interesting enough, even though they had to kill people in order to do it. The one-way transfer was inefficient, but presumably the sparks could listen in on what people were saying; otherwise it would be very difficult to figure out who to influence and how. I really wish the author had chosen a different name for the WE. It sounds silly and is strange to read.

The return of the spheres seems ominous when we realize that they are destroying all of the buildings in Toronto and surrounding areas, as well as trying to force the survivors to move west. There is also an ominous tone around the fact that nobody except Cory considers the spheres to be a threat. The sparks (the WE) have altered people’s minds, including Shannon and Kai. But it turns out that they are benevolent, and will only allow “good” people to survive, something that Cory has already done in this group. The reason they’ve done this is because they’ve set up a shelter in Windsor with nice houses fully stocked with supplies, and they want Cory to start leading the people there to restart humanity.

The morality of the WE is very close to our own, but how do they interpret shades of grey? Good vs bad? They consider selfish to be bad, but many of Rob’s or Cory’s actions could be considered selfish. Cory asks the question of why he wasn’t labeled as “bad” when he shot the new people after meeting with the WE, even if it was in pre-emptive self-defence. That question is never answered. It’s worth considering that somebody that the WE consider to be bad (or even somebody who Cory would consider to be bad) might be good for the group in the long term. I don’t think it is really mentioned as a possibility. The closest is the character who starts having a nervous breakdown as the end of their journey approaches, but most everybody else takes it all in stride. Nobody mentions that humans don’t like to be safe. They like to ride motorcycles without helmets, and jump out of airplanes, take dares to walk along house roofs, and do other things that are dangerous. Being safe is good for the survival of humanity, at least at first. But in order to innovate, humans need to break through barriers.

I liked the way the energy ray that turns things to dust, as well as the devices that they were forcing humans to build, are consistent with what the sparks do here, as they learn more about humanity. In No Time to Scream, it looks like they are eliminating hiding places and honing in on radios for nefarious purposes, when actually they are creating safe places and trying to find humans they can transfer to in order to help. The device they were trying to build was meant to try and revive the dead humans? By the time they started building it, it seems like the bodies were already decomposing. Yuck!

I also found it interesting that the sparks can interpret drawings of stick people, roads, trees and buildings, that cannot look anything like the real thing, as they are drawn by people who have not had a career in realistic impressionism. It seemed unlikely, and could have used an explanation.

Did the sparks save a lot of books from the libraries where they got all of their information? Or did they just transfer the knowledge to the children and then turn the libraries to dust? I hope they brought the books to Windsor, which is the location they’d prepared for the renaissance of humanity. The bridge to Detroit was ominous, but it was never made clear if they could see skyscrapers- was the city still standing, when Toronto had been turned to dust? Maybe it’s a link where people can come from the South to Windsor.

There is a new female character in this book, as Cory turns back toward Toronto to do some surveillance. I quite liked the angry Pen, who worked with Cory to save Rob’s life. Other than her anger, though, after being raped off-screen she shows no other ill-effects from her experience, and even warms up to Arthur quickly, which I believe is unusual for a rape victim. The turnaround seems too quick and is not really explained. I enjoyed her character, so was a little disappointed that she disappeared for so much of the middle of the book, though she wasn’t particularly needed. She was a good foil for Cory at that point, too, as she started spending more time with Arthur. After abating for most of No Time to Waste, and hardly appearing in the first half of this book, Cory’s resentment of his father resurfaces, seemingly out of nowhere. My guess is that it’s because the end of their journey is approaching, and he’s afraid that his father will try to take control again.

By the end of the book, there are potential threats that are never explained (perhaps fuel for more stories), but the spheres have left, meaning that Cory and Rob will have to fend for themselves. I wonder if the society they are building will outgrow them? They did a good job in No Time to Waste, but now the group is getting larger. It will be interesting to see how it grows.

The author notes in his “about the author” blurb that he’s continuing to explore these characters and their relationship. Rob, Cory and Shannon are strong characters with a lot to offer, and I really look forward to reading more about them.

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