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Anomaly by Peter Cawdron
Review by Ernest Lilley
Author at Smashwords ebook  ISBN/ITEM#: B005OJF0ZC
Date: 20 September 2011 / Show Official Info /

Author Peter Cawdron set out to write an engaging science fiction novel where the science provided the action and adventure instead of relying on over the top violence, which is often a mainstay of the genre. Anomaly, his debut novel about an alien probe that settles down in front of the United Nations building in NYC, targets a YA audience and pretty much hits the mark.

The title character of the story is a spherical zone that spears in lower Manhattan and suddenly starts rotating on its axis, slicing a chunk out of the UN and bewildering scientists and normal folks alike. Among the fascinated observers is David Teller, who might have been a scientist except that life got in the way, and who found that he really enjoyed explaining science to school children as a teacher. When Teller takes his class to watch the anomaly play havoc with the laws of physics, one of his students wanders off to talk to her uncle, While a journalist is getting shots of Teller and the class, Uncle Mason turns out to be the head of National Security and the investigation. When his niece introduces her teacher to him she also shares some of Teller's ideas about the anomaly, ideas that make the scientists take notice.

Teller may be only an elementary school science teacher, but he turn out to be just the pair of fresh eyes that the problem needs, and when his observations and musings catch the imagination of the scientists trying to make sense of the anomaly, he finds himself at the center of the investigation. Having a teacher for a point of view character meets the author's needs perfectly, as Teller provides a bridge between the scientists and everyone else. Everyone else, in this case, is represented by Cathy Jones, the cable TV journalist that happened to be taping a segment when the anomaly appeared. Cathy accidentally chained herself to the investigation when she broadcast Teller's speculations, and to make her pay for her sins, Mason drafts her to do media relations for the effort.

What follows is an engaging tour of the scientific process, sped up a bit, as NASA scientists run with Teller's insights and a few of their own, and the world watches on live feeds courtesy of the President's call for transparency, despite his decision to keep the anomaly under US control. That decision doesn't sit well with the rest of the world, and while the researchers look inward to uncover the anomaly's secrets, the world outside is rapidly falling apart.

The principal players, Teller, Cathy, and Mason, struggle to keep it all from being a slog through science class as they deal with the human aspects of the crisis, and with each other. Mason, though set up to be the heavy in the story, is painted as alternately overbearing and reactive and as a thoughtful team leader, willing to at least listen to a scientist's predictably hopeful point of view. We get some romance from Cathy and Teller to move things along and involve readers with the characters. And yes, we even get some violence in the mix as the disorder outside reaches in to disrupt our happy geekfest.

The writing isn't up to the literary standards of SF's edited presses, but it's quite readable, and given time Cawdron will no doubt smooth out the rough edges. the story arc ends more concerned with the mounting conflict between the US and the UN than with the anomaly, though the author leaves plenty of room for sequels.

The Anomaly is an exposition sandwich wrapped between pretty thin slices of human interest and global tension. What its critics don't get is that there are readers out there for whom this is a nearly perfect Dagwood, overstuffed with slices of everything from astrophysics and general relativity to discussions of the relationship between religion and scientific inquiry. That one of their own might get save the day and get the girl is to them only fitting.

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