Reviewed by Todd Jepperson
In Mark Alpert’s The Orion Plan, available Feb. 16, 2016 from St. Martin’s Press, Earth finally makes contact with an alien species, and it’s not pretty. When a strange, meteorlike object is observed travelling at unbelievable speeds on a direct collision course with earth, NASA scientist Dr. Sarah Pooley makes what she thinks is the most difficult phone call of her life. She contacts the United States military to warn them of the impending destruction of all of New York. The object is big enough to punch a hole right through the shell of our planet, and possibly even destroy it.
Except it doesn’t.
Dr. Pooley watches as a large part of the object is ejected, and only a small part changes course and heads for a hillside in the park. A fullscale military search is launched, but they’ve got the landing site completely wrong. Dr. Pooley tries to show them the error of their plans, but who is she to be smarter than military scientists?
Enter Joe. A homeless former Doctor of medicine who happens to be sleeping on the hillside the night the probe slams into it. He sees a second shot at life in the gleaming black sphere. Afterall, wouldn’t someone pay large amounts of money to recover such an expensive piece of technology? So, he does what anyone down on their luck would do. He hides the probe, and tries to locate someone who will pay big money for it. Too bad he’s not the only one on the hillside that night.
A couple of street tough “homeboys” also come to investigate who might be making noise in their part of the city. They expect rival gangs, but find poor old drunk Joe sleeping in his box in the mud, so they stomp him out pretty good. They try to take the probe, and that’s when things get strange. The probe bites, and when it does, the bite leaves a mark in a bad way.
What begins as a somewhat slow introduction to the wide range of characters accelerates into a wild ride of Earth’s last stand against otherworldly invaders. Although there are a few seemingly random detours along the way, Alpert has brought to life a species that is so vastly different from the “little green men” cliché that you won’t soon forget it. “Naomi” is a literary wonder in her own right, and Alpert has definitely done his homework. The characters are extraordinarily developed, with the exception of the Hispanic gang of boys, and the way Alpert envisions interplanetary encounters is incredible.
The Orion Plan is a smart, creative work of Scifi art that will reward the patient reader with several new ideas and a whole new crop of fears. Pick it up on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, or wherever it is you prefer to shop for books.