Review: Primordial Threat

Posted: May 24, 2023 by in Books that are Mediocre (3.4/5 single_star) Meta: M.A. Rothman, Science Fiction

This is one of those reads that I took on a whim. Prior to it, I hadn’t come across this author or any of his books. Taking a quick look at his back log, he’s put out quite a few, across a surprising number of genres. Found out after the read, that this book had been part of the first year of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition, which I thought was pretty cool. Although, after seeing online how voraciously the author tackles the concepts of self-publication and marketing, it didn’t surprise me in the slightest that he would have been one of those to throw his hat into the ring that first year. In my opinion, he pushes the boundaries, in many respects, as to what can be accomplished as a self-published author. Smart dude for sure.

PRIMORDIAL THREAT is the first of two books about a near-future Earth that discovers it has more to worry about than simply solving world hunger or reducing the threat of global warming, as it’s about to be hit by a black hole. Celestial physics are interesting like that. Once you know the locations of all the gravitational sources spread throughout the expanse of the void, determining where any moving body will travel is a relatively simple process. The hard part to this particular equation is that black holes can’t be detected directly, but only through their effect on other celestial bodies by which they pass. So when those few individuals that have turned their gaze toward the cosmos finally figure out the point source of sheer destructive power that is barreling toward the Earth from its infancy in the primordial universe, there are relatively few days, and significantly fewer ideas, that are available to those currently residing on the planet.

The cover copy on the book suggests that there will be two characters of interest: Burt Radcliffe, the head of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, and Dave Holmes, a modern-day Einstein that was run out on a rail several years ago for his unpopular suggestion that just such an event would soon be threatening the earth. Truthfully, there are quite a few more PoVs than that, but only a couple more that share the predominant limelight with those two. Those being: Jon Stryker, an NYC cop with some important military history, and Margaret Hager, President of the United States. PoV time from these four take up probably somewhere between 60-70% of the book, with the remainder spread all over the place. Short scenes, and short chapters are peppered throughout as individual pieces of information about the situation at hand are dramatized for us. In general, I find that the kind of writing that includes a lack of focus upon specific characters takes away from the experience of the story, and that was very much the case here.

The book does have its strengths. Pretty good writing makes it easy read, with developed scenes that are able to portray the tension and frailty of those trying to guide the planet to a future that doesn’t involve complete annihilation. Scenes are relayed effectively in a sequence of events that feels plausible, and reinforces the difficulties of driving humanity toward a solution that is able to get past the heavy inertia of complex governments, the devastating impact of radical extremists, and the unfortunate fallout of individual, petty grudges. The chapters also do a good job of hitting one idea after another. Very similar in nature to a thriller format, where there is not a lot of down time.

The beginning of the novel was by far the strongest part of the story for me. As the concept of the black hole hurtling toward Earth is developed, and the short timeline laid out, even the large number of PoVs didn’t dampen my excitement for the story by much. The hard science fiction concepts that the plot is built upon are described sufficiently well, and shouldn’t necessarily scare anyone away that has a difficult time understanding complex science. Despite the infrequent technical language, a low-level of detail and straight-forward descriptions of the effects of this science should make the story approachable for most readers, even if they have to skip over the details and consider it all to be hand-wavy. This isn’t an Alastair Reynolds book by a long-shot.

PRIMORDIAL THREAT gives us impending doom and high stakes in a hard science fiction tale that begins strong but ultimately fails to deliver.

Overall, the thrust of the plot is driven by communication between its various characters and the setting up of the science project that will hopefully save Earth. There is a sub-plot centered on some radical extremists that try to sabotage the efforts to save the planet, but that story-line never really felt like it resolved into anything of significance. In general, the development and execution of the final resolution didn’t really feel satisfying to me. I think most of that was driven by the lack of solid grounding in the characters of the tale, which is pretty typical, I’ve found, when trying to find science fiction that I like. Even though the stakes here are massive, this tale is very much like that of an Epic Fantasy tale, wherein the impact of the epic is only found through the travails of the individual, and if the impact of the story is not personal to its individuals, then the impact of the epic will almost inevitably be lost.

Ultimately, an interesting read, but not one that pressed very many of my buttons. Perhaps a “popcorn read”, if you’re into those kinds of things.

  • Recommended Age: 15+
  • Language: Regular but infrequent strong language
  • Violence: A moderate amount of non-bloody violence. Some terrorism.
  • Sex: A few mild references. Some kissing.

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