(Whom the Gods Would Destroy was provided to me by DarkFuse via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Dual review for these two novellas.
Spore by Alex Scarrow
In a small town in the Nevada desert, an alien pathogen has reduced the entire population to a seething mass of black slime. When the Eighth Doctor arrives, he realises this latest threat to humanity is horrifyingly familiar – it is a virus which almost annihilated his entire race, the Time Lords…
Eleven Doctors, eleven months, eleven stories: a year-long celebration of Doctor Who! The most exciting names in children’s fiction each create their own unique adventure about the time-travelling Time Lord.(via Goodreads)
Whom the Gods Would Destroy by Brian Hodge
“Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from godhood.”
For Damien, growing up was all about being an outsider in his own home. His mother and brother shared an unfathomable bond that left him excluded from their lives. Yet his earliest, fragmentary memory of them was so nightmarish, their lives were something he ran from as soon as he could.
Now an astronomy graduate student in Seattle, Damien is happy with his place as a speck in a cosmos vast beyond comprehension. Until his brother turns up after 13 years, to make amends and seek his expertise on a discovery that may not be of this Earth. The more the world expands to admit the possibilities of a universe stranger than even Damien has imagined, the greater is his urgency to resist being reclaimed by a past that never seemed to want him…until now.
Like a collision of galaxies between H.P. Lovecraft and Carl Sagan, Whom the Gods Would Destroy looks to the night skies as the source of our greatest wonder, and finds them swarming with our worst fears. (via NetGalley)
I wouldn’t have suspected that a short novella for young people and longer, darker novella meant for an adult audience had much in common. Sure, both are science fiction of a sort, but one is Doctor Who and the other invokes Lovecraft. They are surprising bedfellows.
While Spore is part of the 50th Anniversary collection of short works written presumably for young people, its characters are adults and it pulls no punches. One of my favorite aspects of Doctor Who is that, while it purports to be science fiction and is commonly fantasy, it’s also quite often horror. As reputation dictates, kids don’t hide behind the couch while watching Doctor Who for no reason. Thrills should be part of childhood and Spore delivers. The spore, as it liquifies people and gathers itself into more complex forms, is pretty squicky. Its impetus is to test the intelligence of the foremost native species on a planet and, if the species is found wanting, wipe the planet clean for its own colonization. I haven’t read much Doctor Who fiction, but this is the best written of the lot thus far.
Whom the Gods Would Destroy is also a story of colonization. In both cases, von Neumann probes are referenced, but with a twist. In both cases, the self-replicating “spaceship” is of biological nature. Whom the Gods… is an incredibly dark tale. There is no Doctor to rescue the world, only a graduate student whose own family history can shed light on what’s occurring, but can not stop it. It’s a more personal tale and it *is* a more unsettling tale. Hodge plays with the notion of evil versus amorality. If an advanced enough intelligence seems like a god to us humans, what do we seem like to it? Not a pleasant concept to contemplate. Hodge’s writing is tight and suspenseful with the right amount of jolts.
Whom the Gods Would Destroy will be available from DarkFuse on December 10, 2013.