by Charles Curley
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Let’s see here…. Start out with some of the 1930s and 1940s adventure thrillers, throw in a special operations team composed of patients from a military mental hospital, parallel time theory, and two of the most bloody-minded cultures the world has seen, gently stir with some interesting Christian theology, some fascinating linguistics, and a wide-ranging authorial knowledge of current physics, archaeology, history and linguistics. What do you get? With any luck, Implacable Alpha, by W. Michael Gear.
Implacable Alpha is the sequel to Gear’s Alpha Enigma. The first novel introduces readers to the main characters and the situation. Three thousand years ago a man was buried in an Egyptian tomb. A man with modern dental work and titanium screws in his bones, in a tomb with Egyptian hieroglyphics and Mayan writing. In the 21st century, an archaeologist who specializes in American archaeology is hired to excavate an ancient Egyptian tomb, with a steel door. Various baddies shoot their way into the dig, killing a lot of the crew and burying our archaeologist, a forensic pathologist, and two sarcophagi in the tomb. Are we having fun yet?
Meanwhile, in Colorado, a special patient named Alpha, or Gray, or Nakeesh, your choice, is delivered to Grantham Barracks, a military mental hospital. During the delivery, two would-be assassins pop into existence and start shooting. Due to some fast work by the defenders, one assassin dies, and the patient’s life is saved. The other assassin pops back out of existence.
A special operations team coalesces around some of the Grantham Barracks patients. They are all unique. For example, Chief Petty Officer Karla Raven, USN, a SEAL sniper and team leader who has guilt problems due to events in Afghanistan. She is also an accomplished and impulsive kleptomaniac. Then there’s Winchester Wesson Swink, Major, USAF, who can fly anything and has Antisocial Personality Disorder — Winnie for short. OK, a lot of libertarians could identify with Winnie. They are, as one of the characters says, “…[A] most improbable special operations team. The kind not even Hollywood could have dreamed up.”
Suffice to say that the good guys save the day — barely, and Alpha Enigma ends with a clear warning that the bad guys will be back.
And that’s where Implacable Alpha picks up. Gear is a good enough writer that you can pick up a lot of the story of Alpha Enigmareading Implacable Alpha. Now throw in several villains who are absolute slime buckets. Let the action begin.
Along the way, we learn that there are two sets of baddies, or maybe possible good guys also fighting the real baddies. So the novel has a delightful puzzle to keep you guessing. As with modern “news”, it’s a matter of whom do you believe? Or maybe, whom are you stupid enough to believe?
In some ways, these books remind your reviewer of H. Beam Piper’s Paratime series. Based on the theories of J. W. Dunne, it uses the idea of timelines splitting as one makes decisions. In this timeline, Hitler won World War II, in that timeline civilization never developed. And on top of it all, Piper’s top civilization uses paratime travel to get resources and raw materials that their own timeline has exhausted. It is essential that the paratime secret be kept from outtime timelines. Hence Piper’s Time Cops. In Piper’s novel Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen we meet the Princess Rylla for whom one of our publishers is named.
The physics behind Gear’s work is straight out of the work of Hugh Everett III, an American theoretical physicist. It’s solid current physics. As with Piper, Gear’s cross-time travel is a secret. If any other timeline had that secret, they would be a threat to the timeline that has it. Just as the Paratime Cops do what they need to do to keep their secret, the cross-time travelers in the Alpha books keep their abilities secret. Only these guys are far more ruthless and much nastier than Piper’s time police.
Many of the elements of the book come from Gear’s own experience. Like some of the characters, Gear is a motorcycle fan, and an Iron Butt rider. As a North American archaeologist, he has more than a nodding acquaintance with Mayan archaeology, and certainly knows how to research it if he needs to. Mayans show up in the Cahokia novels Gear co-wrote with Kathleen O’Neil Gear. Guns? The Gears live in Wyoming; enough said.
Or, to borrow a phrase, by the fangs of Fasif, this is a good read!
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