Book Review: Cry from a Silent Planet,a science fiction novel by John Rowland
Scientists around the globe are fascinated by and continuously hunt for life outside of Earth, as well as in extreme conditions on Earth. Projects such as SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, scan the skies hunting for alien signals. The Kepler spacecraft increasingly adds to our tally of known extrasolar planets, buoying our prospects for habitable ones, and here on Earth, scientists like Dr. Robert Ballard have helped discover extremophile organisms living on hydrothermal vents deep within Earth’s oceans, once thought inhospitable to life. Life, it turns out, is possible under somewhat varying conditions. Does it exist elsewhere in our solar system or beyond? Astrobiologists believe the answer is “yes.”
Then, recently, the astronomy world was given a present in the form of a confirmed rogue exoplanet. Rogue planets are believed to exist, but only recently were researchers able to observe this particular drifting planet, homeless because it is not orbiting a star. With additional review, scientists might determine this world is moving through space with a group of young stars, the AB Doradus Moving Group. The planet is located approximately 100 light years from us.
Enter the world of science fiction. The plausible line between science and science fiction meet on a plane mixing reality and conjecture. In the new novel Cry from a Silent Planet, author John Rowland walks the tight rope of that line. An alien civilization lives underground because their dying star has scorched the surface of their home planet. Making matters worse, an incoming rogue black star appears to be on a gravitational collision course with them. This is the recipe for the riveting start of Cry from a Silent Planet.
Highly intelligent and advanced aliens are in a furtive quest to save their population from inevitable doom. On Earth, the year is 2024. Unlikely protagonist, Matt Slater, becomes more involved than he ever imagined or thought he was capable of. In the midst of struggling to save his life’s work and his marriage, he and his family find themselves stumbling upon a mysterious black door, in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming. Slater’s handiwork alters the door key and binds him to it, making him the only human being who can unlock it. The secrets behind that door begin the reader’s journey to take along with Slater.
At its heart, this science fiction novel touches upon significant science theories and future tech with sometimes alternate causations and results. You can tell the author has a physics and astronomy background by his playful manipulation of reality. The novel raises both ethical and moral imperatives. Some characters are spot on with their behavior. Others miss a beat with the author’s attempt at American Midwestern vernacular or military and political swagger; the language feels contrived on some pages. In an attempt to give some characters depth, the added drama feels awkward at times. However, once involved in this book, the reader is led on a journey with one welcomed surprise after another. Not your typical “humans meet aliens” story, Cry from a Silent Planet poses a giant “what if” scenario that will blow the lid off your notion of Earth’s past all the way back to the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
This book provides an emotional look at how civilizations and their citizens behave in various situations. As human beings on Earth, we are known to have faults, many faults; how we treat each other and our planet is not always stellar. We believe the Earth is our domain and we are the most intelligent creatures inhabiting it. The culmination of this novel is that we are not alone in the Universe and how are we going to go on from here.