Tim Sullivan's Lords of Creation is a little novel that tries (and really tries hard) to pull together a whole lot of ideas and one really big one and put them all into a 242 page paperback novel.
It is set in the year 1999. Instead of a successful first Gulf War, America gets bogged in a protracted fight that saps its political vitals at home. The Republicans work with a growing Christian Milleniallist movement who believe that the end of the world as we know it is coming and America should be prepared. A Department of Morality is developed and led by a preacher who attacks all of paleontology as "the work of Satan." Entire university departments are shut down due to a lack of funding and only amateur paleontologists can continue to dig.
|A fossil dig in Montana. Photo by SD Public Broadcasting|
Up to this point, the book seems to be a kind of screed against religion in general (they're all fanatics, they're stupid and they hate dinosaurs!). But, suddenly, the story switches. An alien spaceship comes, summoned from "sleep" in the asteroid belt by the opening of the egg box. The alien reveals that its species created the super smart dinosaurs that were just hatched and it froze them again because their reptilian brains lacked any sense of morality and all of that brainpower with no morality was a disaster. They destroyed rather than build.
So, the alien waited until primates evolved and made them super smart because they had morality. The innate sense of morality would "drive [the] species forward. It is absolutely correct in its moral imperatives, that these imperatives are larger than the individual and must be asserted. Those who stand against it are always incorrect, though their opponents believe that their version of morality is just as correct. This conflict is the process that culminates in a planetary civilization, and leads ultimately to the stars." (p. 236)
Now we have an interesting premise, the most important thought of the book and it is laid out and never touched again, despite all of the questions it begs such as:
-Is Flanagan bad or good in light of this philosophy?
-Is the constant struggle really a good thing or not?
-Is the Department of Morality necessarily a bad thing - is it the realization of a planetary civilization thus stepping stone to the stars?
-If that is the cost, is it worth it?
Man, if there was ever topics to discuss, why aren't these being discussed? Instead, it wraps up in six pages and we are done.
One other issue. I know that authors have very little to do with the covers of their books, so these three comments are aimed at the person or persons that choose the art for the cover: 1) The book is set in Montana. There are no Saguaro cactus in Montana. 2) There is only one alien, not two. 3) The alien looks nothing like the ones on the cover.
So, a really huge idea is brought up to discuss and it lays there and dies. The rest of the book is an okay space alien story.
I have to give it 3 out of 5 stars for the rest of the book. 1 star for the really big idea. Total: 4 out of 5 stars.
Reviewed on June 28, 2012