Millennial Dawn Starts Apocalyptic Human Fall

By Perley, Frank | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 19, 1999 | Go to article overview

Millennial Dawn Starts Apocalyptic Human Fall


Perley, Frank, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Ready or not, here it comes. "Millennium" is the watchword of the moment as humanity turns in rapt attention to the future. What better way to usher in the long-anticipated event than with a holiday gift list including tales of tomorrow?

For some, the impending millennium sparkles with the promise of endless possibility. And no vision of humanity's destiny could be more appropriate for this moment than the prospect of a whole new world. Robert Charles Wilson gift-wraps that captivating scenario in the pages of Bios (Tor, $22.95, 208 pages).

Standing at the threshold of the 21st century, Mr. Wilson leaps ahead to the 22nd and fictionalizes posterity's efforts to colonize the solar system and beyond. Starflight has been achieved, allowing humankind to reach the depths of space. One planet is most promising: It contains an atmosphere that supports indigenous flora and fauna. And Isis, named for the Egyptian goddess of fertility, actually resembles Earth.

There is, however, one problem: Isis is highly toxic to humans. Still, if microbiologists can identify the process through which Isian matter poisons human cells, perhaps a solution can be devised to prevent it.

Enter Zoe Fisher. Zoe is a clone, which is not unusual in the 22nd century. But she is a unique clone, genetically engineered to combat the toxicity of Isis' environment and prepared since childhood to survive its dangers. Though a perfect instrument of science, her clinical upbringing has rendered her as cold and distant as space itself.

Her training complete, Zoe is inserted into the Isian environment. Stepping out into the planet's verdant landscape for the first time is like a homecoming. Ironically, it is on this remote planet that Zoe the clone discovers her humanity. When she encounters disaster, it is Tam Hayes, a man with no genetic engineering other than nature's own measure of guts and chauvinism, who risks all to try to save her life.

* * *

For those uninspired by the prospect of life on a new world, the dawn of the millennium may be the right occasion to contemplate hopes for peace on planet Earth. The perfect reading gift would be The Trigger (Bantam, $24.95, 447 pages), a collaborative effort by science fiction grand master Arthur C. Clarke and best-selling author Michael Kube-McDowell.

Since the invention of gunpowder, Mao's axiom that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun has been beyond dispute. But what if someone invented a device that would take the pop out of guns? That truism would prove false and a new paradigm for power would take hold.

Dubbed "the Trigger," just such a devise emerges from an accidental discovery by Jeffrey Horton, a brilliant young physicist. With the help of his mentor, Nobel prize winner Karl Brohier, Horton attempts to employ the Trigger in the cause of peace. If all countries were offered the means to neutralize threats from neighbors, then the only thing that would grow out the barrel of a gun would be, recalling the hippie dream, flowers. …

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