"A gripping story featuring well-constructed characters, poignant moral dilemmas and a chillingly realistic dystopian future."– Kirkus Reviews
Erickson’s (Afterlife Code, 2018, etc.) collection of sci-fi stories explores parallel worlds, rogue planets, alien intervention, and more.
Primarily set in the Boston, Cambridge, and Merrimack Valley areas of Massachusetts, these tales often follow a male protagonist who finds that humans don’t understand the laws of the universe as well as they think. In “Recount Our Dreams,” widower Jack Martin is a test subject for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s restricted environmental stimulation therapy project. When an electron accelerator experiment elsewhere on campus goes awry, Jack’s deprivation chamber shunts him into numerous alternate versions of Earth, including one in which meteor collisions depopulate the planet. “Rogue Event” depicts humankind’s decadeslong preparation for the passing of an enormous rogue planet through the Milky Way—an occurrence that will shatter fragile orbits and decrease the sun’s life span; at this point in Earth’s history, corporations fully control society—and displays of emotion are taboo. “The Gray” takes the furthest imaginative leap in its tale of Amber the Elder, “an intersex Cani hominid” who debates whether to eliminate a warring species on Terra Nova Seven, a planet that’s under observation. The stories “Neurogenesis” and “To See Behind Walls” showcase the author’s love of classic literature; the former is an homage to Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon (1966) and the latter to James Thurber’s 1939 story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Throughout this collection, Erickson connects his tales in surprising and delightful ways. Events in “Recount Our Dreams,” for example, seem to occur down the hall at MIT from where the developmentally challenged Robert Wright works in “Neurogenesis.” Some ideas beg for deeper exploration, such as the planet in “Rogue Event” that “is linked to our time and space, but its physical science and laws of nature are operating on another plane of existence.” Readers may also be divided on “The Gray,” in which genocide is made to seem like the least of several evils.
A speculative compilation that acknowledges humanity’s long struggle ahead.
In Erickson’s (Eagle: Birds of Flight, 2013) dystopian sci-fi novel, a cryogenically frozen scientist wakes up in the year 2155 to find that he’s the only man in a matriarchal military state.
In 2019, Lt. Jose Melendez is a scientist on the autism spectrum who uses himself as a test subject in his innovative cryogenics research. When a sudden, unrelated pandemic causes nearly all adult men on Earth to become violent, Melendez is one of the few who are unaffected, and he soon becomes the subject of military testing. His work in cryogenics takes on a new urgency as it may hold the key to keeping mankind alive. He’s frozen as part of an eight-month cryogenics test, but he isn’t thawed until more than 150 years later. His rescuers are four cybernetic “artificial persons” who have been expelled from society for exercising free will. In this future world’s matriarchal society, all male youths are similarly “cast out” of society when they reach puberty. Melendez and the APs learn that the government is actually murdering the boys, despite the long-ago eradication of the original pandemic, so they form a guerrilla-style group to try to stop the killings. Meanwhile, Maj. Mare Singh tries to stay focused on her military career, but secretly spends all of her free time watching, through mirrored glass, the young son she was forced to give up. When she discovers that Melendez has implanted a computer virus into all APs, she soon learns of the murders, and she comes up with a plan of her own to save her son and the other boys. In this first, two-part installment of a planned series of novellas, Erickson artfully raises profound ethical and philosophical questions regarding class systems, gender equality, neurodiversity and what it means to be human. He draws on classical references, and especially literature, in his work, and readers will likely appreciate the way he beautifully weaves in references to Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells and other masters of science fiction. Overall, it’s dystopian literature at its finest.
A gripping story featuring well-constructed characters, poignant moral dilemmas and a chillingly realistic dystopian future.
This fast-paced second book in Erickson’s Birds of Flight series continues the story of fugitive Alexander Burns and his family.
After stealing classified government information from the Department of Defense Foreign Intelligence Agency, Burns and his team have been on the run for years. As the book opens, they decide to negotiate with law enforcement officials for their safety, but their careful plans go awry, and Samantha, the woman Burns loves, is killed. Burns instructs her sister Becky to inform their FBI contact that “the ‘dead man switch’ has been pulled….‘The flood is coming.’ ” He then embarks on a mission of vengeance that could have repercussions for every American. He and his team risk their lives to release classified data on the controversial actions of the Foreign Intelligence Agency, which causes a diplomatic crisis. The team wants its freedom, and it’s willing to take down the whole country to get it. It finds unexpected allies within the government; one government operative says that Burns “has been consistent with loyalty to friends….Even when his paramour is killed, he keeps his word to those who keep it with him.” Erickson depicts government agents, spies and rogue operatives as well-rounded characters with discernible inner lives. The novel improves on 2012’s Albatross, the first book in this series, in Erickson’s ability to handle a somewhat convoluted plot without losing the reader. There are just as many explosions and gunfights here, but the overall mood of the work is tenser, and less triumphant, as Burns and his family risk not only their freedom, but their lives.
An ambitious thriller that looks at the gray areas between vengeance and justice, law and morality.
Erickson’s debut novel explores personal development through love, explosions and terrorist plots.
From the book’s opening, two storylines take off: a terrorist plot to destabilize the U.S. government and a record of the key characters’ psychological development. Yet, in investigating the inner worlds, Erickson doesn’t sacrifice explosions and gunfire; instead, he peppers the action with psychological insight. Sam Coleridge (nee David Caulfield), Alexander Burns’ former therapist, tells most of the story from his point of view in the form of his confession to the police. Coleridge’s specialty is “recovering memories and treatment of patients who suffered…from post-traumatic stress disorder.” He insists that the treatments work “only if the patients really wanted…to” participate; Burns certainly wants to participate, since the recovery of his memories is crucial to his plan for revenge. The plan seems natural from Burns’ perspective: His former employers betrayed him and, ultimately, the nation. His skills return with the memories that motivate him, and he trains his team of civilians to help, teaching them “abilities of researching, acquisitions, reconnaissance, planning, and improvising,” while he handles the business of violence. The series of events that lead to Burns’ action is, at times, unclear, partially because of the intense focus on the characters and the nonlinear narrative. Erickson competently portrays the sometimes violent tactics, though it’s clear that his real interest lies in his characters’ emotions and psychology.
Some rough plotting, but the solid action is driven by dense characters.