Dr. Alaniz’ Beyond Future Shock is a triple combo romance-sci-fi-war novel that takes place over the span of a few millennia, though most of it is in the 20th and 21st centuries. The amount of quality reading material is cut about 50-50 with some drek that required an editor’s literary filtering to make a less flawed reading experience.
It begins with a German pilot, Karl von Onsager, and his return flight home after WWI when he encounters a stray American plane. You can guess the type of interaction they had, but Alaniz’ narrative here is captivating because he can draw upon his years as a pilot for material and wordplay.
What follows, though, is a bland, uninteresting love story between two affluent Germans, Heinreich and Lise, during the rise and establishment of Nazi Germany. They meet at an academy for gifted German youth. Nothing about their relationship is particularly unique or noteworthy; he woos her and they fall in love in the manner of all healthy adults. That’s about it. I don’t read romance novels so I don’t know if this is standard fare, but something tells me there should be a little more meat on the bone.
The last 150 pages or so (he inexplicably does not organize chapters or use numbers) is when the science-fiction starts to come into play, where Alaniz documents the rapidly-developing technology of his fictional Earth. Eventually, Heinreich, Lise and their allies (their minds, anyway) end up in space fighting against an Earth-bound supermind, using what amounts to robots to fight by proxy. Like the initial air battle between Karl and the American fighter, this is the area where Alaniz shines the brightest.
Shock was self-published and with no (official) editor, so there are trivialities like a few spelling errors and awkward grammar. Honestly, I can only hold Alaniz accountable for not hiring an editor and not for these mistakes. The editor would have weeded out the flubs — writers are and should be focused on the content. To wit: just in case you really, really forgot that most of the characters were German, Alaniz uses the mein loanword to remind the reader that they really, really are German. I didn’t think this was necessary, but a less jarring way to communicate their “Germanity” would be to transcribe some German idioms or linguistic idiosyncrasies into English.
There was also little to no character development. The two protagonists grow biologically but not in any other ways. They don’t seem to make any major mistakes, and with the small ones they do, they are able to slide out of them with ease. They are rich, good-looking, with a genius-level intelligence, and they succeed in everything that they do. There’s no self-doubt, no internal conflict about their own decisions, no truly messy outcomes — none of the psychological hangups or personality flaws that are at the heart of great novels. That would have been somewhat acceptable had this been a pure sci-fi project, but this was not the case.
The worst offense arrives at the epilogue, an egregiously misplaced rant against religious belief versus the progress of science (yawn), written by the son of Heinreich who just ended up being a thin-veiled mouthpiece for Alaniz’ belief system. The subject was barely touched upon for the entirety of the book, and besides the fact that the lecture tries to say too much in too little space, it has to resort to incoherent generalities and false dilemma illogic. The conflict thesis has already been discredited — or at least greatly mitigated — but that doesn’t stop some academics from using it to buttress their own irrational fears.
Looking at Beyond Future Shock, Alaniz has many strengths but he is at his strongest when he’s dealing with the future of technology and the nature of humanity with this technology. Weaving that into a love story isn’t a terrible idea, but it has to be done carefully and with characters that generate interest and make the story worthwhile.
Head on over to Noisecreep to read the second post from my interview with Cory Brandan from Norma Jean, about his graphic design work. We met in a venue’s smoky side room with an unused bar. There was a flossing pick on the couch on which we sat. Not sure if it was also unused; I didn’t really need it because I had already flossed that day.
In less consequential news, old men and women who live on a hill, wearing Bryl cream and brass buttons, took an eraser to the laws of mathematics and medicine. Asclepius slapped his forehead and left to go get blitzed at the nearest symposium.
It’s a boy. It was born with a switchblade in one hand, and in the other hand a slip of paper with your name and address on it.