Sunday, December 20, 2009

Review of RETURNING


Returning by Pat Whitaker, 233 pp.

Review by Thomas C. Stone

New Zealand author Pat Whitaker creates a spellbinding science fiction story in Returning, delivering an alternative historical narrative based on thought-provoking scenarios. With an intriguing premise, Whitaker takes us from the tundra of Siberia to war torn Europe in a pursuit of rocket technology and Nazi political manipulations. The central character is Arthys, an intelligent alien parasite capable of attaching to any biological lifeform. Arthys is from an advanced civilization and has been banished to Earth for unspecified crimes. The impetus for the story arises in Arthys’ efforts to make his way back to his home-world.

Returning gives Whitaker the opportunity to explore several topics – animal consciousness, the depravity of war, human morality and motivation, and not least, the power of human love to lend meaning to life. The reader is treated to private discussions between the leaders of the Nazi hierarchy as Arthys travels from one host to another. Whitaker handles the transitions gracefully with a thorough knowledge of all the players. Indeed, so thorough was the historical accuracy, I found myself thumbing through Bullock’s Hitler: A Study in Tyranny to check the facts. Included in Returning is a fairly detailed exposition of the Nazi rocket program at Peenemunde that is also historically accurate.

The science fiction of Returning does not end with the parasite Arthys and his impact on history, but additionally we are treated to a clear and fascinating look at interstellar travel by an alien civilization thousands of years in advance of our own. As usual, Whitaker is scientifically up-to-date in his speculations.

Returning is a thoughtful read with enough intrigue to satisfy any reader. Whitaker’s prose style is straightforward and accessible, a great relief from some current authors whose works might leave you pondering as to the intent of their stories. Whether one is a connoisseur of science fiction or simply a casual reader, Returning is a must-read.

Available in hard-copy or ebook. whitakerbooks.wordpress.com