Eccentric, brilliant, and disgraced scientist Dave Holmes may be humanity’s only hope for survival when a black hole is detected on a collision course with Earth.
Rothman (Perimeter, 2018), an engineer, tackles the hard-science/apocalypse trope of a “Very Bad Thing” threatening Earth in the tradition of Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer’s epochal When World’s Collide and Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer. Focusing rather tightly on a small group of characters—from tough U.S. President Margaret Hager to a NYC cop recalled to active military service—the epic takes place in the year 2066. Humans routinely mine asteroids and have a thriving lunar colony, but that matters naught when the ultimate natural-disaster threat looms: a black hole, preceded by a cloud of debris. A long-shot solution may reside with Dave Holmes, a scientist who’s had a spectacular rise and fall in his discipline. He foresaw the oncoming doomsday and, working in obscurity, has secretly been researching an astounding, untested technology to save at least some of humanity. But other dangers abound—an end-times terrorist messianic cult called the Brotherhood of the Righteous. The Brotherhood make for rather pallid villains, and late in the narrative, a few colorful Vatican reps show up if only to underscore that not all religious folk are hellbent psycho death freaks. But a theme emerges that Earth’s real savior is “Big Science”—and, particularly, science spearheaded by social outcasts, misunderstood misfits, and mavericks. (One surprise supporting-cast hero turns out to be the Supreme Leader of North Korea.) The thickening techno-jargon is somewhat daunting though not entirely beyond a lay reader’s comprehension (“Detecting an acceleration of 20 meters per second squared...correction, the acceleration has increased to 40 meters...60 meters...holding at 60 meters per second squared”). In an afterword, Rothman fact-checks the realities behind his imaginative flights of physics and technology, though a cliffhanger ending points the survival narrative into an entirely different direction and feels a bit like a misalignment.
Fairly exciting sci-fi catastrophism with some quirks; call it The Day the Earth Certainly Didn’t Stand Still.