Weeding Womb

The Human Front

The Human Front by Ken MacLeod. This is one of those SF stories that takes an aggravatingly long time to get off the ground. Except for two incidents hinting at alien involvement*, the first 30 pages are SF-free alternate history.

* The 'Grays' who supposedly stopped to ask for directions in Roswell, New Mexico, no less.

The alternate history itself is mildly interesting: Instead of World War 2 chilling into the Cold War, there was a World War 3. Evidently the Soviets were hit badly enough in the early days of the war that they never developed ICBM technology or split the atom. (Perhaps thanks to the Grays, who are arms dealers and pilots for the Americans.)

Into this reality the main character is born. He sees the war end and the mean ol' Commies go underground. Then he joins their ranks. (This part is terribly unpleasant. Watching the making of a terrorist and the violent acts he carries out isn't exactly fun. Nor does it make for a sympathetic character. Or even particularly compelling reading.)

Then the main character and his comrades meet some aliens after shooting down an American AHAB2 bomber (a UFO to us) and are taken away as prisoners of war. (They've seen too much, of course.)

Then, in the last 10 pages, we get some SF involving an alien prison camp (complete with dinosaurs, very Lost Worldish) that's supposedly on Venus, and the big revelation at the end. (We meet someone from 'our' reality who explains everything, including the whys and wherefores of the world and its dinosaurs.)

A note to authors: I don't expect to be beat over the head with SF every paragraph, but I do expect to see more than 2 paragraphs of SF per 10 pages for the first 3/4 of the story. That's one thing that bugs me. I don't figure that alternate history stuff is SF, unless it's an SF universe with a visibly different history than ours. Man, this is like people who think Anne McCaffrey is SF just because the bronzed warriors who ride dragons don't have some wizard sidekick named 'Whatever-ius'. No, bronzed warriors who ride dragons is a fantasy standard. No amount of 'Well, there's no magic!' SF handwaving will make it anything but. (Okay, okay, some of her stuff does have SF elements. But go read 'Wyer Search' and tell me why it was up for a Hugo. Or why it won, for that matter.)

So, let's see.... Approximately 28 pages of "Communism is Terrorism!" 5 pages of SF, 5 pages of Hogan's Heroes in the Land of the Lost SF, and 2 pages of metaphysical quantum alternate reality explanations. Not my kind of numbers.

The Archon

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