Tribulations – Book Review

 by: Ken Shuffeldt
Publisher: TOR Book, Tom Doherty Associates, LLC New York

Copyright: 2011

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, 1/31/2012



Summary: human-extraterrestrials journey from earth after it is hit by meteors and find a new planet.

You may have been one of those kids, fourteen or fifteen, who started reading science fiction and thought to yourself, Wow, there must be other fantastic ideas out there I haven’t even dreamed of! So you keep reading. Doesn’t take long from reading the Arthur C. Clarkes, Ray Bradburys’, Isaac Asimovs and Michael Crichtons, to realize that it takes more than a daydreaming stream of thought to write science fiction. It also takes a more than passing knowledge of the boundaries of science.

The problem with TRIBULATIONS as science fiction is that it reads like a serial daydream from a fifteen year old. There is no science in TRIBULATIONS. Only magic. There are two elements in this book?unreal human characters and religiosity?that makes it more appropriately labeled a Culture Fiction book rather than science fiction.

Another problem with TRIBULATIONS is the writing. Every character in the novel speaks exactly the same: the same cadence, the same vocabulary, the same annoying idioms (“help me out”, “help us out”, “help you out” is the most annoying). Even the extraterrestrials, light years away, in another dimension, on another planet apparently caught in a 17th century earth is more earth-like than earth.

The premise of TRIBULATIONS is good. Adamartoni and Evevette are beings from the planet Theos who are stranded on ancient earth (“over a hundred thousand years ago”) because their shuttle-craft is damaged in an earthquak. The people of Theos “are an extremely religious people”–whatever that means-and so too were Adamartoni and Evevette. The religion of Theos becomes the basis of religions on earth. This is flotsam from the works of Zecharia Stichin.

A secret, modern day society called Logos has managed to retrieve the DNA of Adamartoni. This DNA is then “accidentally” injected into a newborn baby boy. The baby boy, Billy, underwent amazing physical and
mental changes. Some time later, friends of Billy’s parents had a baby girl. The baby girl had to undergo an operation to save her life. Though still a baby, blood from Billy is used in a transfusion for the baby girl named Linda. Thus, a “unique bond” is established between the two kids.

Okay. We can buy into all this up to this point. Still, there is this nagging question of how DNA can “accidentally” be injected into a baby. Even more nagging because we are told of these events and have no basis to evaluate how or why it could have come about. And this is the main problem with every event in TRIBULATIONS. There are no logical sequence of events leading up to a pivotal event. Events happen because the author says they happen. Story telling, yes. Fiction, no. Science fiction, definitely not.

And then there is the science, as if alternating human genetic structure with an injection of recombinant DNA is not enough.

Leading a fleet of space craft (with his Genesis ship “two miles long and hundreds of feet tall”) from an earth destroyed by meteors, Billy, mentally beyond genius, decides to experiment with a drive capable of pushing the ships beyond the speed of light. After reviewing modifications to the ship’s “magnetic projectors” and adding two more “fusion reactors”, Billy presses a button and the ship ends up in another dimension, which he calls the “fifth dimension” (which reminds me of a song). The ship has traveled two times the speed of light. That means the ship effectively traveled at 12 trillion miles per hour. We are left to assume that Billy has implemented something like a wrap or Alcubierre drive which folds and unfolds space. In trying to get back to the earth fleet, a person who thinks they are smarter than Billy takes a precaution that causes the ship to be misdirected to another part of space where, it just so happens, there is the aforementioned earth-like planet called Midgard.

The speed of light figures prominently in TRIBULATIONS not merely because the author says a character hacks together a drive circumventing the limitation of mass and energy acceleration. At one point, with a meteor threatening to smash into Midgard, a supernova explodes and shortly “afterward, it had imploded, forming a black hole”. We are to believe that this event effected the course of the meteor streaming toward Midgard. How? The impression is that the imploding supernova is near Midgard. If so, the planet would definitely have something more to worry about than a silly little meteor.

More culture than science. A culture fiction work. And the culture isn’t all that comprehensible either. The number of people “wiped out” in this story is staggering. No body is killed, instead, people are “wiped out”. At one scene in the book an enemy army of ten thousand are “wiped out” by a group of earth refugees on snowmobiles sporting 2010 high-tech weapons.

The verdict on this book is that it is a good story told as a story as told by a story teller. As a work of fiction, TRIBULATIONS is a dud. As a work of science fiction, it is a total dud. Not recommended reading.