Steve Alten Takes on Monstrous Ideas with The Omega Project (#bookreview)

Whatever I expected of Steve Alten, knowing his monstrous pedigree, The Omega Project certainly wasn't it. While it certainly had its moments, and sufficiently entertained me to keep reading through to the very end, it also frustrated me (and even confused me) along the way.

Let's start with the frustrations, and get them out of the way. This is a post-apocalyptic science-fiction tale that almost completely bypasses the apocalypse. While that's not always a bad thing, and a lot of books pick up civilization long after anybody remembers what the catastrophe was, this is a book that dances around it, predicts it, prepares for it, and reacts to it, all without really talking about it. I think it would have made for some greater emotional impact if Alten had given us a few more insights into the great die off of humanity.

Another frustration was the way the story changed course a few times along the way. Again, those kinds of twists can be refreshing, welcome even, but it's the way in which they play out that matters. Here, too much happened off the page to really make the shifts effective. Part of that is a result of the massive time-jumps between sections of the book, which I completely understand, but it felt like they were more work-arounds than justifications.

My final frustration - and this is a big one - is just how damned preachy the book became. I expected something of an ecological message, given that we are dealing with a post-apocalyptic world, and that kind of commentary has been standard for the genre lately. What I didn't expect was the spiritualism, and the actual preaching. That element of the story got quite tiresome for me, and really came between me and the characters on too many occasions, somewhat separating me from the sympathies they demanded.

Okay, so with that off my chest, on to what I liked. First, I really liked the central mystery of the narrative, and the nagging questions about whether it was all real, a dream, or something else. I honestly wavered back and forth in my opinion several times throughout the book, and even if I didn't particularly care for the answer at the end, I can appreciate how Alten arrived at it. I think that aspect of the novel was very well done.

Second, I loved the world, the landscapes, and the evolutionary leaps that Alten describes. Here is where we find that sense of the monstrous that I expected, and he doesn't let the reader down. If anything, I would have liked more description - as rich as it was, there were too many scenes where the transition was lost because we weren't grounded in the surroundings - but I can't argue at all with what he provided. It's all very creepy and unsettling, and wondrous in a very dark sort of fashion.

Finally, despite my concerns with so much happening off the page, and with the awkwardness of the time jumps, this is an exceptionally fast-paced thriller. On the one hand, it feels very rushed, as if Alten were in a hurry to move us along from one idea to another so that he could dazzle us with the final reveal, but I'd much rather that than have an author dwell on things and lead the reader along like kindergarten kids on a field trip. It can get bewildering, and certainly doesn't help with the most confusing aspects, but it really gives the story that big, bold, adventurous pulp feel.

Overall, not a great book, but a good one that does manage to dazzle in several areas.



About the Author

Steve Alten earned his Bachelors degree at Penn State University, a Masters Degree in Sports Medicine from the University of Delaware, and a Doctorate of Education at Temple University. Struggling to support his family of five, he decided to pen a novel he had been thinking about for years. Working late nights and on weekends, he eventually finished MEG; A Novel of Deep Terror, a thriller about Carcharodon megalodon, the 70-foot prehistoric cousin of the great white shark. MEG went on to become an international best-seller, with movie rights sold. The Mayan Calendar plays a big part in his Domain series -- another international best-seller sold in the U.K. as THE MAYAN PROPHECY series. Steve's other work includes The LOCH -- a modern-day thriller about the Loch Ness Monster, The SHELL GAME -- about the end of oil and the next 9/11 event, and GRIM REAPER: End of Days -- a modern-day Dante’s Inferno which takes place in New York when a man-made plague strikes Manhattan. His best work yet, THE OMEGA PROJECT – was released in August 2013. As an author, Steve has two goals. First, to continue to work hard to become a better storyteller and create exciting page turning thrillers. Second, to remain accessible to his readers. Steve reads and answers all e-mails, uses the names and descriptions of his loyal fans as characters in all his novels, and even hires readers as editors, depending on their particular expertise.


About the Book

The Omega Project
by Steve Alten
Genre: Fiction
Published by: Tor/Forge
Publication Date: August 6, 2013
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 0765336324

In The Wizard of Oz, a runaway finds herself transplanted to a strange land, only to learn it was all a dream. In Planet of the Apes, an astronaut awakens to find himself in a strange land, only to realize he is still on Earth. The Omega Project ups the ante, and neither the hero nor the reader will know the true reality until the very last page. In 2028, twelve astronauts and a scientist are cryogenically frozen for 30 days beneath the Ross Ice Shelf to prep for a mission to Europa. Only one will awaken... 12 million years in the future!


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