Science Fiction Though the Decades

Sunday, January 8, 2012

1976: Parric 1 - The Shadow of Alpha (Grant, Charles L.)

Holes in synopsis, gaps in the plot (3/5)
From October 20, 2011

Rear cover synopsis:
"Introducing Parric: an ordinary civil servant being ground up in a mill of paperwork, who is given a chance to work on an experimental government project- to live secretly in a town entirely populated by androids- who very existence, if it were known, would disrupt society- something the repressive society does not want.

But Parric is happy in his secret village, protected by a force-field from outsiders, in contact with only a few others in similar positions in other secret villages. Protected, until war breaks out and civilization outside calls in the horrifying Plaguewind. Then the experimental androids, affected by the plague in strange ways (when the silliest quote occurs, "Do you have any trouble with singing androids?"), become killers! Parric must escape his village, then trek across the desolated countryside, in danger from the surviving mobs of plague victims, to the control center of the secret android project, in an attempt to join other men in starting a new civilization."

This is a poorly executed synopsis is flawed in a number of ways. Firstly, it fails to mention exactly what Alpha is... it's a starship which Parric was once interested in joining but has since left on its voyage to the stars. Parric is oddly obsessed about the mission and continually refers to the possible fate of the starship, but no actual details about the starship are given. It's obvious that it's important to the main character, Parric, but how is the reader able to relate when Alpha is merely a word rather than a plot fixture?

Secondly, the synopsis fails to mention Parric's visitors to his secret village- a conversationally evasive journalist and her photographer. In the village proper when the plague hits the nation, the three of them dodge, at first, wacky androids who develop a taste for human death (exactly how or why- again, no details) and escape the village with their lives to head for some form of safe civilization.

Not only are there holes in the synopsis, but there are also gaps in the plot. The three of them witnessed the plague beginning to change the androids but they were unsure if they had contacted the same plague. Considering the tiny village size and the 100% infection of the functional androids, it should have been 100% obvious that they were indeed infected... yet they took the chance to escape and become exposed outside the force-field. Yes, the force-field...

The force-field is semi-permeable. It allows air to pass through but when a human enters it supposedly trips an alarm. Yet when rocks and stick and logs are tossed through the field, it takes a while before the alarm is tripped. If a human can pass, hence tripping the alarm, then it doesn't actually KEEP anyone out. It also allows bullets to pass through... so what exactly does the force-field keep out?

The Shadow of Alpha is quite a rather poor, yet strangely intriguing read and a shallow beginning to a possibly deep trilogy, where Ascension and Legion follow. I'm interested in how the Alpha starship fits into the scheme of things. Will Parric rebuilt society for the arrival of the crew? Will androids kill everyone? Will force-fields actually force anything from entering?

No comments:

Post a Comment