Any time you pick up a book that Peter Cawdron wrote, you will end up learning something fascinating about science, mathematics, politics or exposed to solid, pragmatic observations about the nature of humanity. In his prose, he manages to make the headier subjects easily digestible. And this talent of his continued in his engaging newest book titled Anomaly.
Anomaly puts forth the premise of how we, humanity, would respond to first contact with an alien intelligence.
I once read many years ago that if aliens ever landed on the lawn of the White House, sure, that would be Earth shattering and exciting, but we’d still have to go to work the next day because we’d still have bills to pay, food to eat and what not. It was a pragmatic perspective from a now-retired UFO researcher. Peter Cawdron, on the other hand, presents different ideas on the matter.
Anomaly starts out quick as an event takes place outside the United Nations building in New York, where a huge globe shaped piece of air, an anomaly, scoops out a piece of the ground, buildings and what not. And just hovers. A huge circular space of air measuring a 130 meters in diameter, proves that after a very short while, it is something very different. But no one knows what. And the suspense starts from there and just keeps coming with every chapter.
In the story there are three primary characters. Cathy Jones, a reporter for a local cable company who just happened to be on-site with her cameraman when the event started.
David Teller, an elementary school teacher
And James Mason, the Director of National Security.
Cathy and David meet when she’s looking for a human interest story near the Anomaly, and Teller, leading his elementary school field trip to the site, filled the bill. But during the interview a child, Susan, gets loose from David’s group and Teller finds her talking to her uncle, James Mason.
Upon retrieving her, she insists that David tell James about his theory on the event that he told the class. That of how a gyroscope and the anomaly were much alike, except, despite the appearance of the anomaly rotating, David expresses his opinion otherwise. His observation catches the attention of a few scientists who overheard, and it didn’t help that Cathy had her cameraman catch the interchange of conversation, broadcasting live for all the world to see.
And thus, when the anomaly becomes a focused item of national security, James Mason sort of enlists Cathy and David (begrudgingly) into the situation, whether they liked it or not. I mean, when the Director of National Security tells his security staff to not let you go anywhere, you aren’t! Mason makes Cathy the spokesperson between the NASA team and the world. (It’s the price she pays for streaming her conversations with Mason live to the world.) Teller’s level headed perceptions and ideas spark both the scientists minds and the public, when they watched those streamed conversations. Again, a price to pay, at least that’s their suspicions of Mason’s choices.
And thus, the tale of first contact is heralded primarily by Cathy, David and James Mason as they find themselves in the middle of a huge and complicated situation with the sensitive political and religious landscapes involved with this event.
For me while I was reading this tale of discovery, I found myself placing actors in place of the characters. It’s an odd thing I do but it is what it is. For David Teller, I was thinking Django Unchained‘s Leonardo DiCaprio. For the gruff and grumpy James Mason, I was thinking Man Men‘s John Hamm. For Cathy, maybe Deadfall‘s Kate Mara. For me putting recognizable faces on characters creates a better visual in my head.
(Contact came from the mind of Carl Sagan while Sphere, from Michael Crichton.) Peter pulled these two inspirations together nicely.
Beyond that, Crawdon addresses what could happen when folks get too antsy about that which they don’t know or understand. And he makes the non-violent protagonist, David Teller, a compelling character. Again, another goal of his, portraying a non-violent hero. And doing it well, because this reader usually loves his violent action heroes and for me to like a character who doesn’t embody violence, was a fascinating experience.
Anomaly was a fun and engaging read for me. The other aspect of the book was wondering just what the anomaly was and how people around the world would react to it. I found that journey to be compelling and came at my open-minded reading with enough twists and surprises to quell the few predictable moments in the story.