Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Index

NO TIME TO SCREAM

A novel by Barry B. Connors (2015, Barry B. Connors)

Living through the death of most humans in Toronto, a young man and a police officer try to survive on their own, and try to devise a plan to drive off the alien spheres responsible.

 

 

3 stars

Read May 15th to 20th, 2015 on my iPad  
    The book started really strong, with a well-internalized adolescent description, and continued to provide amazing detail throughout. As the story became more complex, the novelty wore off, but it still provided an interesting story of survival and the balance between leadership and taking responsibility.

Spoiler review:

This book was written by a good friend and mentor, and I received a copy to read before it went to publication, and offered my opinions at that time. I assume the author made no major changes due to my commentary, which is mostly of personal taste, anyway. I also assume the spelling mistakes and other editorial errors that I pointed out were corrected before it reached publication.

My favorite parts of this book were definitely at the beginning, when Cory was alone, trying to figure things out. It seemed so real. The first night, it was so creepy that when I put it down to go to bed, the house seemed too quiet… and it spooked me a little. Definitely a good sign!

The premise seems simple -most people have been killed by an unknown mechanism, to which Cory is immune. Eventually, he finds that his sister and father were also immune, and so is Rob, the police officer. After they find each other, they make plans to figure out how to destroy the alien spheres that keep coming to capture them, and eventually find a way to do enough damage so that the aliens apparently leave.

The beginning of the book was by far the most intense part. It was all well internalized, with a huge amount of detail. I especially liked the attention paid to everyday things, like grabbing food, navigating a highway strewn with cars (ok, that's not really everyday…). It was done in the normal sense of telling the story –not going out of the way to advertise the fact. The focus starts with Cory from the inside, then moves slowly to seeing Cory only from the outside (Rob’s point of view). I wondered if this was a conscious choice. I found the earlier parts a little more interesting. For example, after his talk with his father, when he realizes that he is a better planner than the adults, we are no longer privy to many of his thoughts. From that point on, he is almost always seen from the third person. Even when the action comes from his point of view after that, we get a description of the events, not often how he feels about them.

This was a great coming-of-age story for this young man. He developed from uncertain boy who only wanted to find his father to show him what to do, to become a young leader on his own. It was subtle as the book progressed- I don’t know exactly when the change occurred. It’s always tough to discover the man you thought knew everything and was the best answer for all problems (dad) turns out to be just a normal person. This also happened naturally. For Arthur’s part, had trouble with his altered role, too, which also seemed very natural. The thinking approach that Cory’s father taught to his son is one that I very much believe in and try to employ. I think critical and disciplined thinking is a real necessity in the world we live in. It was a real treat to see it used in such a productive way here. What are the chances that other young people will try to espouse this philosophy after reading the outcome in this book?

The biggest problem with the book, I think, is that after a certain point, Cory never makes any major mistakes; any errors in judgment are inconsequential. He grew more confident, which is fine, but he also became arrogant, and he never had to pay for that. Rob had a small case of hero-worship by the end, in that Cory could do no wrong (though his interruptions and discussions helped with that), and the father could do no right. After he rescues Clair, Rob and his father, Cory’s assumptions about the spheres and their intentions are never really challenged by the behavior of the spheres themselves. I was expecting either Clair or Arthur to be hurt or killed at one point, or some other way to give him a reality check. Rob getting briefly caught wasn’t enough for me. The threat of the other “mean” survivors was never realized. This is not so much a bad thing, but it was stressed often enough that I was expecting a payoff, and that might have helped in keeping Cory grounded.

Additionally, Cory’s reaction to his father’s reckless action at the end would have been interesting, especially in that Arthur is always asking for caution. From the man who always expected Cory to think a problem through, could Cory come to an explanation for what he did, or at least ask why he didn’t follow his own advice?

Rob and Cory made a good team. Cory was full of youthful enthusiasm, and Rob was able to temper that with reason and a more global perspective. Toward the end, when Cory was outlining his plans, Rob often interrupted to make them better. Maybe they couldn’t read each other’s minds, but they were usually in synch enough that it didn’t matter. Their rapid-fire dialog was fun. There is one aspect missing from their relationship, however, in that Cory never confronts Rob about lying concerning Clair’s death in the bus.

Speaking of Clair, the single female character (aside from the woman who died after climbing out the window) was treated as a stereotypical woman, relegated to lookout, making dinner and coffee… Given that this is a story about a young man learning responsibility, that’s not a big problem. Cory probably never even thought of teaching her more useful skills as she has always been his "useless" sister… In the new world, if there are only a handful of survivors, hopefully she will have more of a role than just being used as a baby-making machine to increase the population with a diverse genetic variety (as at the end of Frank Herbert’s The White Plague).

Learning about the spheres themselves and their behavior was interesting. The experiments Cory tried were logical and I liked his analysis of the results. Like Cory, I wondered why the black spheres didn’t disintegrate some walls to get inside the building, the way the one did when Rob was passed out at the grandmother’s apartment. Also, as Cory pointed out, the first time the black sphere disintegrated the radio, but after that they did not. It seemed random, which made it seem more like an author's device than an actual behavior. For example, I wanted to know if Cory wrong, and the spheres do actually disintegrate in the night, as opposed to waiting for sunlight, because at the end, when they keep shooting at the spheres, they disintegrate one on top of another endlessly.

We get just enough clues about the aliens and their spheres to keep us satisfied as we progress through the book, ensuring that we want to know more and more about them. We get enough for the current story, but I hope there is a sequel in which we can get to learn even more. Does the alien death mechanism only affect animals and insects? Bacteria is mentioned, but nobody asks why the trees are still alive.

The ending is seriously abrupt. Again, I don't think this is such a bad thing, as it makes me hope there is a sequel… However, we still don’t know if there was more of an invasion than just Toronto. When fewer spheres were coming down, I thought they had dispersed to other areas, not that they were afraid. Wouldn’t it be horrible if the spheres just abandoned the Toronto area in favor of somewhere less dangerous –perhaps a place where the population density was lower, so there would be less chance of survivors. Kind of like Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, we don’t get to learn the purpose of the spheres.

But that's not the point. The point of the story is taking responsibility for your own life, doing something worthwhile, and thinking things through, especially when making a mistake could mean the end of your life. And in that, the story mostly succeeds.


I understand there might be a sequel in the works, so I look forward to the continuation of the story, and learning more about the aliens and the rest of humanity.
 
   

Back to Top

All reviews and page designs at this site Copyright (c)  by Warren Dunn, all rights reserved.