Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Finger of God by Keith Williams

A retired Astronaut who once called the International Space Station home, Jordie MacAlister now spends his days in a different kind of isolation: sequestered away on the West Coast of Scotland mourning the death of his wife in the aftermath of an inoperable brain tumor. Furthering his woe, Jordie discovers his time in space has severely weakened his heart, thus curtailing a career in NASA. His life is peaceful – if not idyllic – until a top-secret NASA database is enigmatically downloaded onto his computer in a blinding flash of light. With his inside knowledge, Jordie knows such a thing isn’t possible. So it begs the question: whom or what is behind this inexplicable event now beginning to be felt around the world …

In the early stages, we get the feeling The Finger of God may be a short and speculative excursion not dissimilar to a stand-alone episode of The X-Files. This element is present as Jordie recruits an old friend and retired conspiracy-theorist to help him decipher the downloaded code. But what begins as a small mystery soon dovetails into an apocalyptic narrative incorporating every trope of science-fiction with added horror elements like those sprinkled throughout a Roland Emmerich film. Shifting settings from Geelong, Australia, to the upper echelons of NASA, Williams juggles an alien monstrosity hell bent on exposing the dark folly of the human heart.  

Unfortunately, when charting a plot evocative of sci-fi television, it becomes easy see everything through the lens of these fictions. There are troubled, hardened cops voicing cliched overtures; there are male and female protagonists linked romantically through the fall of civilization. And underlying it all, we get the feeling Williams is using his stage to preach on human hubris; maps of intent weighted down with half-baked philosophy that manages to taper the enjoyment of a fast moving plot. During certain sections, you’ll ‘know’ you’re reading a book. A perfect example of this would be:

"That statement from Maurice injected reality back into the surreal atmosphere as awareness of the impossibly dire situation permeated the kitchen."

Mishaps aside, The Finger of God will still manage to resonate with readers who enjoy old-school tropes with subtle hints of horror.