‘The Omega Project’ is smart, fast sci-fi
It looks as if best-selling author Steve Alten has been reading
his Poe — along with his Baum and Boulle.
In fact, Alten’s newest, “The Omega Project,” not only pays homage to our national bard’s “A Dream Within a Dream,” the American novelist’s “Wizard of Oz” and the French science fiction classic, “Planet of the Apes,” it takes those works to depth his predecessors couldn’t have imagined: specifically, on a mission below the Antarctic ice shelf designed to train a crew to weather both the climate necessary to mine Helium-3 on Jupiter’s frozen moon, Europa, and the cryogenic sleep it will take to get them there.
Why Helium-3? With the world’s oil reserves depleted, war and mass starvation lead to the Great Die-Off of 2020-25 and claim 5 billion lives. Now, Helium-3 is the fuel of choice to generate the stable fusion energy reaction that the world’s remaining scientists have opted as a global clean-burning answer to fossil fuels.
The trouble with Helium-3 is that it’s only found on Earth’s moon and Europa, and supercomputer Golem has determined that the current mining operations on the moon are insufficient in quality to meet future needs. As far as Golem is concerned, it’s Europa or bust.
Scientist Robert “Ike” Eisenbraun and his fiancée, Andria — two survivors of the Great Die-Off — are plucked to join the team on the Europa mission, provided they can successfully train with five other men and women in the Antarctic depths aboard Oceanus.
Paying homage to his own, 2003 novel, “Goliath,” Alten’s Golem goes rogue, following a protocol for survival that places Eisenbraun in cryogenic sleep with a wake-up call 12 million years in the future, at a time after the moon has been struck by an asteroid and humanity has been extinguished.
Or has it? Enter a race of genetically engineered transhumans, an intelligent land squid, named Oscar — one of Alten’s finest character creations — and it’s impossible to tell where reality begins and the dream ends — until the last page.
The climatic storytelling and smart science fiction that placed Alten atop the literary food chain with novels, such as “Meg” and “Domain,” are on full display here. “The Omega Project” is a clever, fast read and a welcome addition to the Alten canon.
About the Author
Steve Alten is the bestselling author of the “Meg” series. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Penn State, a master’s from the University of Delaware and a doctorate from Temple University. He is the founder and director of Adopt-An-Author, a free nationwide teen reading program for use in secondary school classroom. Alten is the author of 12 novels. Visit the author and find a video trailer of “The Omega Project” at http://www.stevealten.com.