Five Stars out of Five
I’ve read ten books by Flint, and this is the best. It’s not five stars, but it’s close enough to merit the extra star for the reasons explained below. Most of his space operas and alternate histories are popcorn for the brain. Boundary raises several serious issues and melds them into an engaging plot with engaging characters. The cover gives away a lot. The Goodreads.com description (drawn, I assume, from the book’s back cover) spoils even more.
Boundaries is not great literature nor by any means perfect. Why are all the guys hunks and all the girls babes? Why is it that everyone is so blessed reasonable, except for a few obvious foils? It’s unrealistic.
The biggest and best issue raised must be treated as a spoiler because it impacts the book’s closure. I can’t even refer to it obliquely without endangering the fun of potential readers.
Spoiler: The climax is triggered by the mission security manager outing all the technological secrets the team on Mars discovered about the aliens who landed there (and on Earth) millions of years before. She does it because she fears that we and they may not be the only space faring races, and humanity is not prepared for the next folks who might wander by. Because she assumes we must plan for the likelihood that those explorers will be hostile and have better technology that us. I agree.
Why assume that? (These are my thoughts, not Flint’s) Because, short of magic (yes, even with faster than light travel) exploring the galaxy will take a major effort. Yes, some folks will be curious and make a half-hearted attempt to check out their neighborhood. But serious explorers will have serious motivation. Maybe conquest, more likely resources. And what may be the scarcest resource in the galaxy? Water. A planet where water is naturally a liquid. A far-field spectrometric analysis of our solar system may reveal the concentrations of frozen water on Europa and Ceres, but couldn’t fail to reveal the liquid oceans of Earth.
And if they come that far, they won’t come to share. They may not even bother to negotiate, certainly not to buy, what they can take. And take it they will. Probably by exterminating us and moving in.
That this hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it couldn’t. Tomorrow. Since every star seems to have planets, some percentage may harbor life. Some percent of those may have intelligent life. Some percent of those may be enough older than us to have mastered interstellar travel (and, along the way, used up or ruined their planet). But traveling here is still going to be resource intensive. If they come this far, they will not be coming in search of peace. The “prime directive” folks will have lost the election (or war) and been left behind.
We should be wary, if not afraid.
We, the entire Earth, should undertake a Manhattan Project-style effort to develop better space travel, establish extraterrestrial colonies and defense. If for no other reason than to get all our eggs out of this single basket.
“The national security of the United States doesn’t mean much if it isn’t part of the security of the whole human race.”