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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Book Review: Alpha Redemption by P. A. Baines

Alpha Redemption

ISBN-13: 978-0986451744

I've always enjoyed a good story about people exploring space. When I heard that P. A. Baine's book, Alpha Redemption, was about a man traveling to Alpha Centauri, naturally it perked my interest. I also heard about the computer aboard this ship, called the Comet, and rumors of similarities to Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey. As I read it, indeed there were similarities, as well as major differences. I believe it would be of help in deciding if this is the book for you, to list those.

Similarities revolve around a computer on the trip developing sentience and a sense of self-preservation. Another similarity would involve giving away the plot, thus giving you no reason to read for yourself. And of course both are set in space, and above all, while both have some elements of tension to them, neither is what you would call a high action type book. Rather, like 2001, it has a decidedly "inner space" philosophical/theological journey as the book progresses.

Indeed, one of the striking similarities is in the style of writing. Baines isn't quite as descriptive as Clarke was, but the pacing and feel of the book is very similar to 2001. The reader gets to experience the day-to-day life on the ship, and the cycle of life in space. I'm not an expert on such things, but the details felt very authentic to me, given he's using the science fiction conventions of artificial gravity.

Where it differed with Clarke's 2001 is the direction Baines takes the story. Whereas Clarke's story headed into a more secular "we'll all evolve into a god-like creature," Alpha takes us into a different direction—in a decidedly Christian direction—and in an very unconventional manner. And does so convincingly. Though toward the end the changes happened a little too fast for my taste, overall it provided a believable story on one man's inner journey to escape his past, only to run headlong into the future.

Likewise, whereas Hal, the computer from 2001, went berserk and attempted to kill everyone on board, Jay, the computer running the Comet, works to save the life of his passenger. The book is about Jay's journey as much as Brett's, and is one of the more interesting elements of the story.

Another area of difference is this story adds a plot element not found in 2001. For Brett, in signing onto this mission, is as much running from something as he is trying to go down in history. And Baines introduces a parallel storyline that slowly reveals Brett's past in a manner that relates to what he experiences on the trip to Alpha Centauri. Watching as Baines weaves this alternate storyline into the main one, very deftly I might add, provided another of the interests as I read.

If there is one thing that stands out to me about this book, it is the interesting relationship between Brett and Jay, as well as Jay's own growing awareness not only of himself, but God. Like a child learning truths for the first time, this prototype computer ends up stealing the show, in more ways than one.

It's for those reasons that I can recommend this book if you are someone who enjoyed Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Personally, I had a hard time with 2001, due to the slow pace. So this one was a bit of work for me, especially at the beginning. I'm addicted to tension in a story, and while this has some, it isn't the standard kind of tension. The tension in this story revolves around the relationship between Brett and Jay, and while it starts out slow, the tension grows until it hits big in the end.

So while personally I'd give this a three on a scale of one to five for my own preferences, for those who enjoy a story with the style and pacing of 2001, this falls into a solid four, even a five for many.

Note: This book was given to me by the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it.