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What Happened to the Indians

An SF novel by Terence Shannon

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A poor, didactic SF novel

  • Feb 21, 2011

Note: This book was provided to me by the author.Please note I have heavily spoiled the plot.

What Happened to the Indians is a science fiction novel by Terence Shannon.

The time is the near future. China has continued to rise as a superpower, and recently, in the time frame of the book has been testing a series of nuclear devices, in a clear challenge to the US. A new US President has taken office promising to clean up the messes of the past. And Unidentified Flying Objects start meddling in U.S. Affairs...

Starting with the crashing of a U.S. Fighter jet, the aliens continually escalate their actions, finally culminating with a demand for the rights to an obscure canyon in New Mexico. The President is faced with the horns of a dilemma--accede to the mysterious aliens demands, or resist, knowing that such resistance might be futile.

Thus the stage is set in What Happened to the Indians. The title derives from one of the characters assertions that the Native Americans would have been better off if they had met European colonists with deadly and implacable resistance. Since they did not do that, their fate with inferior technology was sealed.

The viewpoint character, Lt. Doyle, is a typical "average man who is catapulted into the councils of power". He rises to witness and participate in the deliberations and actions of the White House. While we do have other viewpoint characters, in scenes large and small, we continually return and refer to Doyle as our touchstone to what is happening.

While the writing is mostly adequate on a grammatical level, the rest of the aspects of the novel were, for me lacking.

Let's start with the politics. While I have read novels with political slants ranging from Doctorow, Stross and MacLeod on the left, to Niven, Pournelle and even L. Neil Smith, this novel in many respects come across as a political tract disguised as science fiction in a way only matched in my reading by Smith. Characters with a less than conservative and militaristic viewpoint are consistently proven wrong again, and again. Even Pournelle was and is willing to have centrists and even left of center people as positive characters in his books. Here, Democrats, unions, and pacifists are treated as wrongheaded and foolish at best, and actively dangerous to the health of the nation at worst.

Then there is the plot and world building. Even with the inclusion of a "Deleted scene" which the author provides, I could not simply buy the plot as given. Aliens land, specifically in the United States and begin making demands. The information control is far greater than any hope of reason. Leaks would emerge, but the general public only ever sees the smokescreen that the US Government uses to cover up the whole thing. I found this implausible.

Worse, the US Government's solution to the problem, to escalate a nuclear confrontation with China in the hopes that the aliens will decide to leave rather than let the Earth plunge into a nuclear winter, just didn't ring true. The aliens are clearly intelligent and have been studying the Earth for a long time. (They did pick the US, specifically, to make themselves known). I just couldn't buy that the aliens would pack up and leave the Earth entirely. Why not move their mysterious operations to another nation?

And while we talk about other nations, the only two countries mentioned are the US and China. Even as the US and China move toward DEFCON 2, we never, ever hear how other nations are reacting, and what they might do, as this escalation occurs. A nuclear escalation between India and Pakistan gets world headlines, reactions and actions. A nuclear escalation between the US and China? ALL of the nuclear powers would react. I am sure that even the "unannounced" nuclear powers like, say, Israel, would play a chip in that game. And yet, we hear nothing about it. Nothing. It is as if in this world, only the US and China exist.

Compared to this, I won't even develop in detail other problems I have--such as the U.S. deliberately attacking and sinking one of its vessels, with a loss of all hands, to manufacture this crisis, and subplots that go nowhere, including the unfortunate fate of a passenger jet airliner which is kidnapped by the aliens.

I do not recommend this novel to any readers. Sorry, Mr. Shannon.

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