An engineer and his co-worker discover an asteroid in Taylor’s (Counters, 2008)second novel.
Harris Mitchel is employed by Advanced Technology Laboratory along with French-Asian Diana Muse-Jones. Each is married, perhaps unfortunately, to someone else—Harris to Jennifer, Diana to Stewart. For now, though, they deny their mutual attraction. One night at the lab, Harris and Diana detect an asteroid, which they name “Baby,” but in a rush to report it, they’re jailed for breaking and entering into a lodge. Initially, it seems that Baby isn’t a threat to Earth, but calculations were skewed by a system error. Since Baby may indeed hit the planet, Harris feels he must get the word out. Doing so, he crosses paths with the Rev. Dr. Ernest Farnsworth of the Church of the Righteous Path, who views Harris’ pursuits as anti-God; radio personality and talkshow host James Conland, who orchestrates an on-air debate between Harris and Ernest; and a commune of eclectic individuals enthralled by Harris’ findings. Jennifer’s wealthy father, Ronald Stevens, attempts to make a buck by investing in technology to alter Baby’s path, and volatile Dick Fowler, Ernest’s devotee, plots to silence Harris. This novel is many things: a satire; a romance; a disaster epic; a treatise on science, religion, bureaucracy and hysteria; a coming-of-age tale; a meditation on messianic savior versus unbalanced fanatic; and the story of man’s obsession with space, alternate realities and doomsday prophecies. Characters are sometimes taken to the limits of absurdity, but they’re not caricatures. However, since the setting and plot direction aren’t exactly clear at the outset, the narrative is impededby the very question that intrigues Harris: “Where are we?” or, perhaps more pointedly, where are we going? Some passages, though clever (e.g., verbatim radio commercials), add unnecessary payload to an already weighty rocket. Throughout, there are synchronicities and deeply engaging scenes, including, in a flashback, Harris’ epiphany in youthas he ponders humanity’s place in the universe. Around the time of an intense coupling (à la Moonlighting’s David and Maddie), there’s liftoff, and from that vaulted perspective comes a glimpse at last of the expansive brilliance of it all.
A wild ride bogged down in the beginning but mind-boggling at the end.