Thursday, September 1, 2011
“It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.” – Bob Dylan
In the case of William Meikle’s (The Amulet) Invasion, it’s more of a green rain (or snow), but it is pretty hard on those on whom it falls anyway.
On a winter day in the Canadian Maritimes, a strange snow starts to fall. It is green, for one thing, but more ominously, has an acidic effect on anything living on which it falls. People, dogs, plants, all are dissolved by contact with the eerie precipitation. The only people who survive are those who have immediate access to shelter, and the phenomenon is not localized, but is spread all over the east coast, and elsewhere in the world. Civilization begins to collapse under the onslaught, and it gets worse. Alien organisms begin to grow in the biological sludge left behind, and the survivors soon learn this is the precursor to a full-fledged alien invasion.
The story follows Alice, a biologist who gives some of the scientific exposition for the benefit of the readers and John Hiscock (I realize this is a real name of a real person, but I could hear Beavis and Butthead going “heh, heh” in my head every time I read it.), a survivalist and unlikely hero. Alice has a psychic ability to resist the invaders. They manage to find each other and join the military in a desperate attempt to stop the onslaught.
The whole thing has a 50s sci-fi movie feel, and the obvious point of reference is John Wyndham’s classic sci-fi disaster novel The Day of the Triffids, the most famous alien plant invasion story. The author does a good job of keeping the action moving. I could quibble about some minor details that are wrong, mostly military related (no one in the American military, Army or Navy, has held five star rank since Omar Bradley died, for instance) but I won’t. Although I guess I just did. There does seem to be too much story for the relatively short length (it’s more a novella than a full novel) and both Alice’s powers and the appearance of the professor are a bit deus ex machina.
The good far outweighs the minor problems, however. This is meant to be a fast-paced action piece, and I enjoyed it. It isn’t the deep sort of thing you read to reveal some existential truth about your life, but how often do you want to read something like that anyway? Invasion is available as an e-book or as an archaic tree-killing print edition.