The first question that everyone has about The Pleistocene Redemption is "How did this wretched, poorly written, ill-thought-out, badly plotted book get even one Nebula nomination, let alone the ten required to get on the Long Ballot?"
The answer is simple, if shocking. The Nebula is for sale. Dan Gallagher sent a copy or copies of his book to every active member of SFWA, at heaven only knows what dollar price, and found among them ten people who would recommend his book without reading it. So if you want a Nebula, and you have the several thousand dollars it would take to mail copies of your book around, I can all but guarantee that you'll be on the long ballot too.
Note that only those on the Short Ballot can legitimately call themselves a "Nebula Nominee," and, obviously, The Pleistocene Redemption is not on that list. This is probably because the people who vote for the books going onto the Short Ballot have actually read them.
Normally I don't make fun of self-published novels -- it's too easy. It's sort of like making fun of someone's fanzine. But in this case I'll make an exception. The author has been so relentlessly self-promoting in the SF field that I am the proud possessor of four copies, all signed. If someone wrote Spock In Love, and offered it for sale at a convention, hey, I wouldn't mention the flaws in plot, logic, grammar, characterization, and sense. But if I somehow, without asking for it, got four copies of Spock In Love gifted on me by the author, all with notes on how great this book is, and begging for a Neb nomination, then I might say something like "What a profound waste of time reading this book has been."
Let's do a plot summary of this turkey. This'll be hard to do, since it lacks what's usually called a "plot." I'll interleave other comments along the way.
We start off with a rather pretentious and over-written prologue:
Whence came our insights?
Who can discern meaning from the coincidences, personal changes and dreams which develop so subtly in the passing years of our human lives?
Kevin Gamaliel Harrigan, driven by struggles and longings deep within himself, pursued these and other questions of life...
This sets the tone for the book. It'll be pretentious and over-written.
While reading The Pleistocene Redemption has been a profound waste of time, I don't mind. I'll make up for it by wasting your time telling you about this book. We're talking about a book here that sucks so hard it removes all the air from small rooms. It's certain to replace The Eye of Argon as a late-night convention reading.
After the prologue we go to the Al-Rajda Zoological Research Preserve, Iraq, in the year 2018. Our boy Harrigan and his friend, Freund, are dying of a mysterious virus. They are surrounded by evil Iraqi troops who speak in dialect "What do you nid? ... You Americans and Europeans do deserve a leetle respect." This sure is mysterious, but we aren't going to find out what's been going on for darn near another 300 pages, because now it's time for a twenty-chapter flashback.
It's instructive to see why bad books are bad, just as it's instructive to see why good books are good. One of my character flaws is that I'm unable to stop reading a book, no matter how bad, once I've started it. For this reason I'm selective about what I start. When I find myself reading a bad book, I seek entertainment in later discussing how it failed.
Perhaps I may even save someone else from wasting his or her time -- time that won't come back no matter how hard one wishes for it -- on this book. Time that could be spent reading a good book, taking a walk, catching up on sleep, writing letters, or watching the clouds drift by.
Our first stop in the extended flashback is at Ranger Training in Florida in 1997, where Harrigan and his friend, Freund, are trainees. We meet Sergeant Jenkins and Sergeant Gaines. These are the first two Whack-a-Mole minor characters we'll come across. They arrive, do something or other, then vanish from the book as if they'd never existed. By the end of the chapter, Freund is back with the German army, while Harrigan inexplicably gets his Ranger tab. Next time we see him, he's just finishing up his doctorate at Harvard. What difference does it make that Harrigan is a Ranger? None! Will he use his training? No! The only possible purpose for this chapter is to make the reader really dislike Kevin Harrigan, burning up any sympathy he may have gained by being sick unto death in Chapter One.
When we next see our boy, it's the year 2002, and he's at Harvard, the day before his orals. And our next Whack-a-Mole is already on stage. This is the lab assistant, Bambi, she with the "generous portions of her breasts" peeking at our boy. She makes a pass at him, but Harrigan isn't interested because he's studying. She'll have her revenge! She'll tell the Board about the basis of Harrigan's research! Bambi has been renamed Chrissie for the trade paperback, but don't worry, she's still the same cardboard character. By now, Harrigan has bought his way out of the Army, making all of Chapter Two irrelevant.
First major hint for Dan: If you can afford to self-publish a hard/soft deal, and you can afford to send out a thousand copies of the softcover, and you can afford to lay out piles of the hardcovers on freebie tables at cons and you can afford to buy at least four different vanity URLs to flog your book on the Web, you could have afforded a professional copyeditor.
Hiring a copyeditor would have allowed you to avoid minor problems like having a character take a bite out of his bun then put down his croissant. That way you wouldn't have a British character refer to a "barrister" when what he clearly meant was a "solicitor."
Those four or five people who have read the book (this doesn't count the ten people who wrote five-star glowing reviews over at Amazon.com, all in a brief timespan and using remarkably similar formats and styles, and the eighteen people whose blurbs are reprinted in the front matter, since they were clearly referring to a different book with the same title) will note that those two examples come from the same two pages. Those aren't the only examples; open the book to any two pages.
[Note: these examples come from the hardcover edition. Some of them were fixed in the softcover trade paperback. The paperback is about 11 thousand words shorter than the hardcover version.]
Back to the plot. Harrigan's advisor Dr. Wentz (Whack-a-Mole number four) stole the Ice Man's wanker, back when that archeological find was made in the Italian Alps. Wentz and Harrigan have been doing genetic studies on the Ice Man's balls. Wentz's purpose is to deliver exposition via as-you-know-Bob dialog, again with the dialect. "Vee discovered gene repair occurring during the formation uff eggs. You discovered a vay to redeem archaic genetic material. This could be uff monumental importance." Soon enough, Wentz, his secret revealed, commits suicide, while Harrigan gets a doctorate.
Meanwhile, in far-off Nepal, at the beginning of chapter four, and possibly marking the first appearance of "plot" in the book, we meet Dr. Bart Lloyd, a Brit, traveling with a group of Sherpas who for some reason call him "sahib." Bart's attempting to capture a Yeti, which he does, in the infamous "parachuting Sherpas" scene. You can read this yourself in an excerpt that Dan himself has provided.
As it happens, this is one of the sections that I'd already picked out for special comment, as being particularly foolish and poorly written, and here the author is offering it as a sales point so y'all can read it without having to lay down $25.95 cover price (marked down to $14.95) (hardcover) or $9.95 (trade paperback). (Or without owning a mailbox, which seems to have been the best way to get a copy, or copies, whether you wanted them or not.)
I really like the parachuting Sherpas. I especially enjoy thinking of the scenes (not in the book) where our hero teaches the Sherpas how to parachute, and makes them wear their parachutes at all times. Bringing out those parachutes was kinda like the classic "with a mighty leap." It was smooth.
But now that we have a Yeti, you're probably wondering what purpose it serves in the plot. The answer is: None! The Yetis at Pleistocene Park are eventually all killed (off stage) by the Cro-Magnons, for reasons that elude me. Well, actually, I suppose it's to show that Cro-Magnons are Really Tough Dudes, but actually, you could have subtracted the Yetis entirely from the book without making a single substantive change to the story.
I told you that the trade paperback is about 11,000 words shorter than the hardcover. The paperback Pliestocene Redemption isn't markedly better than the hardback, just different in many ways (starting with the dedication and working from there). I am not going to do a variorum edition, but, just for example, the first paragraph of Chapter Four reads:
Unsponsored British explorer, Dr. Bart Lloyd, awoke to his Sherpa guide telling him they had to go back. Frustrated, Lloyd had intended to get results and be taken seriously this time. A paleontologist and explorer, Lloyd specialized in the fauna of the late Cenozoic era, especially the Pleistocene epoch which extended from nearly two million years ago to about ten thousand years ago. The children's books he had written did not sell. It seemed to him that, when people thought of fascinating prehistoric animals, they thought of the dinosaurs, long-gone by the Pleistocene. The creatures of the Pleistocene, or so most people thought, just were not weird enough to sell. In fact, his theories were not taken seriously by peers either.
British explorer, Dr. Bart Lloyd, awoke to his Sherpa guide telling him that he had to go back. Lloyd had intended to get results on this expedition and be taken seriously at last. Temptation to bitterness clawed at his sinking heart.
I kind of wonder if some of the hardback exposition might have been autobiographical. The part about the children's books not selling, and not being taken seriously, for example.
Imagine my disappointment when the scene where Bart sits on the grape jam in Chapter Five
"Before Harrigan could warn him, Lloyd's white pinstripe suit gained a new purple design on the exact center of its seat."
There're more, lots more, changes, based on a random sample flipping through pages. What the book didn't get is a deep structural re-write, which is what it desperately needed.
The only notation that the trade paperback isn't the original text of the hardcover is on the copyright page, where the trade paperback is listed as "1st rev. ed" and the copyright date is 1998, while the hardcover version is listed as "1st ed." and the copyright date is 1997.
Anyway, Lloyd and Harrigan get hired by Ismail Mon, an Iraqi government minister, for his secret biological research station. Harrigan's friend, Freund, despite being third in his class at medical school, is unable to find a job in the civilian world when the German army decides that it'll abolish its medical corps. So Harrigan hires Freund to work at Pleistocene Park.
Now, in another development that has nothing to do with the plot, the height of the Atlas mountains is reduced by one-half, using joint Iraqi-Israeli sound-beam weapons.
Hint #2 For Dan: "Allegory" doesn't mean what you seem to think it means. An allegory is, to be very brief, an extended metaphor. What Dan thinks is an allegory is actually his theme, which is the Struggle between Good and Evil. Or something like that. My putting it so baldly makes the book seem far more coherent than it actually is.
Now we come to 2008, and the opening of the Megiddo Species Preserve, Israel, a tourist trap. I'll call it Pleistocene Park. We've recreated pleistocene megafauna from preserved genetic material found in cave, sinkholes, frozen in ice, and so on, all over the world. VIPs are there to see the place. We meet yet more Whack-a-Mole characters, and some genuine minor characters, including the the Australian Dr. Smythe, who also speaks in dialect: "Some eye-laynds were connected to the laynd before the glaciers melted."
Gasping, Mrs. Banks covered her son's eyes. She stared, like the rest, in shock at the sight of the two. Unlike the rest of her group, she began to gag, her eyes bulging from the large volume of egg and sausage that now pumped up through her esophagus. As her humphing and choking subsided, yielding to big, full-throated gulps, she began to calm. Only Mr. Banks had noticed his wife and it converted his open-mouthed smile to a firmly disapproving grimace.
This is no dry, boring, vomitless novel. A good number of the characters upchuck in the course of the action.
What's going on here is that Mr. & Mrs. Banks, together with their son, are taking the VIP tour
Jurassic Pleistocene Park, and are now watching the mammoths mating.
What makes the Banks into VIPs is never specified. They, like many of the other Whack-a-Mole minor characters, appear, then vanish, with no apparent reason for their being there in the first place, without advancing the plot, supporting the theme, or revealing character, and with no reference made to them ever again after they leave the stage.
But wait! What's this? Terrorists! There's a 220-foot tall aluminum tower here, the "Monument to Peace and Man," which is designed to look like a scroll. The VIPs are ushered inside after their look at Pleistocene Park. The terrorists attack, and in yet another scene of over-the-top violence are defeated by Freund and Harrigan. "Freund struck again, harder; well into the brain, and pried the hammer back viciously. It cracked the skull and spattered a red and gray jam-like substance on his face."
What part does this play in the book? None! We never hear from those terrorists again, and the Monument to Peace and Man might as well not exist for all the difference it makes to the following events.
Among the many blurb-quotes published in the front matter is this one:
"...a fascinating concept ... the Preserve ... the Neanderthals ... all the perils. More authentic than Jurassic Park."
-- James E. Gunn, author of The Joy Machine (Star Trek #80) and editor of The Road to Science Fiction
This rather makes me wonder what was removed by those three little dots. Did the original remarks go something like "... a fascinating concept [thrown away by ham-handed plotting and semi-literate prose]..."?
Looking more closely, many of the blurbs supplied by respectable people are full of elipses.
Let's look at the full text of a genuine review by someone apparently literate in English:
The Pleistocene Redemption.
Cypress House. Aug. 1997. c.327p.
ISBN 1-879384-32-9. $24.95
In this debut, Kevin Harrigan is a brilliant, obnoxious scientist who figures out how to splice missing sequences of DNA and re-create creatures of the Pleistocene era. Sound familiar? After Harrigan and his colleagues are caught working on illegally obtained remains of one of humankind's ancestors found frozen in the Alps, hoping to reproduce the missing link, an Iraqi officer hires them for what appears to be a scientific enterprise. The scientists learn, too late, that the Iraqis are actually pursuing a new type of biological weapon. After 300 pages of ponderous philosophy and overwrought violence, the story reaches a limp conclusion. Despite a few good action sequences, this too-familiar story is lumbering and poorly written. Not recommended.
-- Robert C. Moore, DuPont Merck Pharmaceuticals Co. Information Svcs. N. Billerica, Mass.
Library Journal, August 1997, pp. 126-128
Meanwhile, off in the Kurdish region of Iraq, the evil Ismail Mon has a village machine-gunned, the officer in charge of the area shot in front of the troops by his own second-in-command, and the troops he had formerly commanded assigned as guards to the region by way of punishment. This will be the site of the new Pleistocene Park, where human experiments will take place.
And take place they do. We have Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals recreated, raised from infancy by Nostratic-speaking Arabs as foster children, in the caves to the north side of Plestocene Park. Meanwhile, Harrigan gets married.
The chief spouter of poorly-thought-out religious material is Manfred Freund, whose role in the book is to be Harrigan's friend. (Note how clever that is: Manfred is a German, and Freund is German for friend.) Still, Manny doesn't really believe, for all his posturing and spouting -- when he's given a moral choice whether to take part in the reproduction of humans, he just goes with the flow and takes the money. It's hard to say that he acts out of character, though: Before a man can act out of character he first has to have a character...
We now come to the Giant Turtle scene, which again has nothing whatever to do with the plot. And, again, this is one of the sequences you can read for yourself on the web.
This is mentioned in another review, this time by Dave Langford, a gent who is not only literate in English, but very familiar with SF and fantasy:
WAS IT DONATELLO?
Wild turtles could not persuade me to print the long extract from Dan Gallagher's The Pleistocene Redemption -- selected for the author's own PR as a specially good bit -- in which a 'monstrous turtle' subtly makes its presence known: 'It sliced off Abrih's entire jaw from ear to ear, just missing the carotid artery and jugular vein. Abrih's upper larynx, ripped completely out of his neck, formed a lump of bloody sinew and cartilage floating from the right side of the hungry reptile's hideous head.' Further hostilities take us into Thog's Elegant Variations Masterclass as in rapid succession this turtle becomes 'the eight foot long horror', 'the voracious monster', 'the vicious animal', 'the nightmarish turtle', 'the Meiolania' (thrice), 'the horrendous eating machine', 'the monster', 'the grotesque turtle', 'the gigantic spiked turtle' and 'the terror', all in four very busy paragraphs. Thog smack lips....
Ansible 128 by Dave Langford.
For some reason, Dave's remarks weren't quoted among the book's blurbs.
This is all part of the bit involving the Iraqi armored personnel carrier disguised as a giant ground sloth, with its treads modified so that it leaves paw prints, which fits two Iraqi soldiers and ten Dire Wolves. How big was this thing?
For yet another honest review, check out SF Site, where A.L. Sirois does his level best to find something nice to say about The Pliestocene Redemption.
Meanwhile, one of the Neanderthals turns out to have memories of the death of the person she was cloned from, and to know Nostratic words that she hadn't been taught. Is a plot finally developing? Nah.
The paperback has the added benefit of yet more review quotes inside, and eleven "Questions on The Pleistocene Redemption for Thoughtful Readers and Book Discussion Groups" including such gems as #5: "Why does Harrigan's middle name -- Gamaliel -- bother him? Would it bother you?"
Well, yes, it would bother me. Who would want to share a middle name with Warren G. Harding?
But if you didn't read the book, there's no way you'd be able to answer this question. The name "Gamaliel" is mentioned four times.
After once in the Prologue, the next time is on page 120 of the hardcover edition (page 140 of the paperback):
Tykvah's voice was always soft and feminine but she spoke particularly alluringly as she pointed to the numbers on the screen and rendered her conclusion. Her New York Jewish accent had diminished after nearly a decade of living in Israel yet she still inflected the last words of most statements. "This new statistical program says, Kevin, that it's almost exactly a match. It's a match except for the base pairs shown in failures window B, and those are unique to the sampled fetus anyway -- its individual characteristics. The next screen shows that the modern lion is quite distinct from these two. So, I'd say all that criticism of my hero, Dr. Kevin Gamaliel Harrigan, is bunk!"
"I told you I can't stand my middle name, Tykvah! Gees! We're not paying attention and doing this right, Babe. It's Friday. Let's just take the day off and ..." Harrigan put his lips to Tykvah's ear and whispered, causing her to giggle merrily.
"I'm game," she said. Music to Harrigan's ears.
Harrigan led her out, re-secured the laboratory, and returned to Tykvah's workstation. "You and I are the only ones to have seen this, Tykvah. I should have my head examined for letting anyone see it, but I ... trust you. Maybe I just needed a little encouragement. It's hard having to work alone, in secret, alone with my self-doubt. Thank you."
"If anyone can make one or both methods work properly, Kevin Gamaliel Harrigan can."
"I told you I can't stand my middle name, Tykvah! Geeze! I share private things with you, bare my soul to you and --"
"I'm sorry, Kevin, you're right. You make me feel special."
Harrigan smiled. "You are special. Hey! It's Friday. Let's just take the day off and ..." Harrigan put his lips to Tykvah's ear and whispered, causing her to giggle merrily.
"I'm game," she said. Music to Harrigan's ear.
Tykvah, we're told, is Hebrew for hope. More amusingly, Tykvah is Russian for pumpkin, and is a slang term for feminine genitalia. What this reveals about the Russian character I'm not certain.
The next mention of Gamaliel comes on page 137 of the hardcover:
Harrigan met Tykvah at his house. The Brandenburg Concerto, Number Three, was playing on his stereo. Tykvah was already seated on the couch in his study, flipping through a pile of unopened letters.
Harrigan was immediately angered. "Tykvah, what are you doing with those?!"
Her end-of-sentence almost-a-question inflection was becoming more pronounced. "Well, Kevin, you said before that I could roam free here; that you had no secrets or old girlfriend photos! Anyway I haven't opened them. But why haven't you? They're from your parents.
Harrigan tried to force the anger from his voice, succeeding only in making it icy. "I just don't have the relationship with my parents that you have with your father. Look, Tykvah, those things are mine. Put them back, please."
"You don't communicate with your parents, but you keep their letters. You must still love them. Couldn't you patch things up and let me meet them?"
Harrigan's voice approached anger again. "Tykvah: Put those away; change the subject. You pick and pick. Like when you kept pushing me about my middle name. Some things inside me are not for you -- or anyone else, okay?"
Tykvah knew she could get farther than this. "You were going to tell me why your dad gave you 'Gamaliel' for a middle name. At least you have a middle name! Mannie hasn't got one and neither do I. But I told you on our first date that Tykvah means 'hope.' My parents had tried for years to have a child and I was their hope, so to speak. Can't you share yourself with me even that much?!"
"All right! Look: My mother told me that Dad had gotten on this religious kick after my brother was born. He wanted a name that would remind me I was Catholic -- which was stupid, 'cause it's a Hebrew name, anyway. It means 'The Lord is vengeance or recompense.' Mom said that would be my choice. They wanted me to be nagged about going to church and all that -- even when they weren't around. Clearly, it worked since you are nagging me now!"
"There. That didn't hurt so bad, did it? Come here and kiss me!"
The trade paperback edition (pp. 162-163) is mostly similar, except he's lost a lot of the italics, and removed most of the '?!' punctuation. The only change in wording was from Harrigan was immediately angered. In the trade paperback the sentence becomes Harrigan felt his ire flare.
Needless to say, Gamaliel isn't a particularly Catholic name. If his parents had named him, say, Francis Xavier, then this would have made sense. But they didn't, and he wasn't, and this doesn't.
To fill you in on what happens next: Tykvah reveals that she's pregnant. Harrigan agrees to marry her. He decides to reconcile with his parents. Then he discovers amid the unopened letters the news that his parents are dead, so he'll never be able to ask their forgiveness. Drat. I hate when that happens.
Harrigan pulled into his garage and went up to check a few things in his study before showering and leaving for Freund's home. He started to put away the pile of letters which Tykvah was supposed to have put back on his desk. The hand writing on the latest one, which arrived a month before, he noticed, was that of his brother -- but the return address was that of his parents. He opened it. The smile generated by his new resolution in the car fell from his face. Tears began to stream and he knelt on the floor from weakness in his knees. Sobs and one long, trembling moan tore from deep in his chest. An auto accident had claimed them -- and he had missed the funeral. Harrigan would never have the chance to act on his resolution. He had believed that he had more time. And, in his shame, he gained a critical insight into the nature and meaning of time.
Harrigan finally composed himself after an hour, showered, dressed and left for Freund's home. He felt humbled, thoroughly reprimanded, but he had a job to do -- and made himself focus on that.
[Hardcover version, page 140. You'll find this scene on page 166-167 in the trade paperback edition. The second of the paragraphs I quoted above has been rewritten, with a great deal of material inserted between the first and second sentences. Four paragraphs, including a phonecall to Tykvah, have been added.]
And what difference does the new insight make in Harrigan's character and actions for the rest of the book? None! In fact, by the next paragraph he's forgotten all about his parents. I don't recall if his brother is ever mentioned again.
The last mention is in the last sentence of the book:
Yet Manfred Freund and Kevin Gamaliel Harrigan were home.
So now we can answer the study questions:
"Why does Harrigan's middle name -- Gamaliel -- bother him?"
Because he's an idiot.
"Would it bother you?"
For the reasons stated? No.
Back to the plot, such as it is. This brings us to the year 2014, as the CIA puts a mole, a Dr. José Nuñez, into Pleistocene Park. He will eventually leave the CIA to stay at the park and work as a genuine employee. And, when the evil Iraqis try to develop a biological weapon (near as I can figure -- it's poorly explained, and tacked on almost as if it were an afterthought--the weapon is supposed to kill all Israelis without harming anyone else based on the genetic differences between Jews and everyone else), he reports it, bringing on the action/adventure climax.
Fairness compells me to mention that some of the review quotes are quite legitimate (for all that they're reviews by people who aren't noted for their abilities as writers or reviewers, and published well outside the genre). I've gone looking, and found that among people who don't read much SF -- or, perhaps, just don't read much -- it's getting good notices. For example, here is one such positive review. It's from Palaeontologia Electronica Vol 1. Issue 2. Home Site is at Texas A&M (ODP, Texas A&M University): http://www-odp.tamu.edu/paleo/
You'll find the review of TPR at (among other places):
It really does say:
The Pleistocene Redemption,
by Dan Gallagher,
Fort Bragg, CA, 1997, ii + 327p,
ISBN 1-879384-32-9, $24.95(US).
Reviewed by Martin Anderson
For those who enjoy such, here is a crackerjack adventure chock full of derring-do, with a grand bonus for the paleontologist. Be prepared, though, to suspend judgement as required throughout this Christmas-tree of a novel that incorporates science fiction, science fantasy, and an odd blend of what I can only describe as metaphysical genetics. All this is supported by a huge cast across the vast span of a near future where Arab nations and Israel, finally united in peace, attempt great deeds to end the timeless poverty of the Middle East.
[snip several paragraphs of plot summary]
Gallagher has written an interesting, quite readable book, first class science fiction with its ingenious, industrial creation of a compelling Pleistocene fauna and habitat, tempered with more than a dollop of metaphysical speculation. He is quite an enthusiast and invites the reader to his website at www.paleobook.com.
Anyway, we're here in the nearly-interminable middle section of the book, where nothing much happens, and takes a lot of pages to not happen. Highlights include a long (if pointless) walking tour of Pleistocene Park by Lloyd, Freund, and Harrigan, dressed in bear suits, and the discovery that the Irish are the lost tribes of Israel.
The Walk in the Park gives Harrigan a chance to tell his pals about his dream (hardcover p.199-200):
Harrigan paused, looking out at the shimmering river. "It started with me staring at the bathroom mirror intently. Why, I don't know. Then, as I continued to look, I began to feel a gloating, powerful feeling. It was very intense; even enjoyable. Like nothing I'd ever felt before. Then, rapidly, my face became grotesque, evil-looking and more so with each passing second. As this was going on, I began to feel really scared. And I don't scare easily. But this feeling of power was increasing right along wtih the fear, and I just went along with it. In a few seconds, I began to feel or suspect that this odd feeling of power was false; some lie. This really got to me and I wanted it all to go away. Slowly, it did.
"My image reversed, becoming normal, and the feelings dissapated. But they were replaced by anxiety that it could all return at any moment. I turned from the mirror and everything was black. I was alone. Guys, it was so strange: I felt then like I was infinitely alone. It was agonizing, I felt so alone. Then I saw a saddened face, like the pictures of Christ back home." Harrigan's eyes began to water involuntarily as the very same feelings returned to him while he spoke.
"Wait! I'm feeling the exact same thing now. This is really strange! Like I'm back in the dream but I can see you, of course. Whatever it was, it was not a picture. I felt -- if you laugh I'll throw you in the river -- like I was a kid, being hugged by someone after being out in the wilderness alone for a long time. Man, it was so real; so intense. " A tear fell from Harrigan's cheek.
Most of us have tears fall from our eyes.
Harrigan and his buddies may have a hard time figuring this one out, but you and I, we didn't have any problem. This is all deeply symbolic, man.
Now, for reasons that are obscure at best, the evil Iraqis decide to kill all the scientists. Not to worry, the scientists get away and go live with the Neanderthals. The Neanderthals, you understand, are Good, while the Cro-Magnons are Evil.
It would be mean-spirited to say that the hardback was so shoddily produced that the spine fell off before I'd finished Chapter 13, so I won't mention it.
The Iraqis send a patrol, which gets wiped out by the Cro-Magnons, who are thus armed with captured rifles. Now these Cro-Magnons have never seen a rifle before in their lives, and have been kept from all modern culture, so far that the care-takers' vehicles are disguised to look like megatherium and the casually-wandering scientists are disguised to look like cave bears. But not to worry, they pick those rifles right up and have impressive accuracy. They know how to fire from ambush, and have good fire discipline.
Anyway, the United States decides to rescue everyone from Pleistocene Park, so they send the space shuttle filled with combat troops, in what has to be one of the more laughable sequences in the history of military fiction. The space shuttle can land and take off from ordinary meadows now, you understand. The troopers arrive, and carry out their rescue of the scientists. This includes the space shuttle only being able to fire two of its three engines and so being unable to take off. Not to worry, it goes off a cliff, bounces at the bottom, the pilot decides to turn on the fuel pump, the third engine catches, and they fly away.
Here's how it ends:
Harrigan and Freund aren't there -- they're off seeing Mon -- while all this happens. They're infected with a retrovirus that will bring about the resurrection of the dead, then returned to Pleistocene Park. (The way this works: Women will suddenly begin to reproduce parthenogenically, pumping out children containing the original personalities of all their dead ancestors right the way back to the very first human. By some mechanism that's explained with handwaving, there will be no duplicates. The children will grow up at a greatly accelerated rate. How those people who died without issue will be resurrected isn't specified. We are told that everyone will be, though, and will be alive simultaneously.) And here we've finally caught up with where we were in Chapter One. To make a tedious story short, Harrigan and Freund are bundled into an aircraft to be flown away to the west, presumably to spread the virus.
Now, Harrigan tries to call the Evil Iraqi Dictator, Ismail Mon, on the phone. He can't get through! He gets the Iraqi Government Voice Mail System! And he doesn't know Mon's extension!
What to do? The instructions on the voice mail system tells him to punch in the first three letters of the person's last name. He goes to punch in Mon's name and discovers, HORROR! That the Number of his Name is 666!
Our protagonists both die of strokes. The book's over. If the dead resurrect, and if this is the end of the world, that all happens off stage after the end of the book.
Lame! Lame ending! Boo! Hiss!
The threads that are dropped in the course of this book are many -- the Atlas mountains, the terrorists, the first Pleistocene Park, the Neanderthal who remembers a previous life. Gallagher should have left out a great many things. The Walk in the Park sequence is just one of them. Or the Parachuting Sherpas. Or the the Space Shuttle. And the giant turtle.
There was the possiblity of a good book here. Unfortunately, it wasn't written. If Gallagher had asked me for advice, I would have told him to throw away about 90% of the text, and concentrate on one aspect of the book. (And no, Harrigan and Freund wouldn't have been in that aspect.) This is a wonderful example of why most first novels go into a trunk somewhere and stay there. Due to the wonders of self-publication, this trunk novel has seen the light of day. Due to untiring self-promotion, this book actually came to people's attention. Sadly, that self-promotion brought (or should I say bought) a Neb nomination on the long ballot. Fortunately, it didn't get on the short ballot. That would have been a real travesty.