Review of “Mission: Outbreak by Michael Gilwood

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Cover art for Michael Gilwood’s novel “Mission: Outbreak”

Starting Mission: Outbreak by Michael Gilwood, when I read that 200 year old human remains are found on one of Neptune’s moons, I was somewhat reminded of James P. Hogan’s novel “Inherit the Stars,” which I’d consumed some decades ago and remembered enjoying.

But afterward, there was a significant section of exposition which, I suppose, was necessary to cover a long stretch of history in a shorter span of pages.

After that, I found Gilwood’s novel was a sort of mix between the original Star Trek television series, and something written by E.E. “Doc” Smith.

That’s not necessarily bad as far as it goes, but not only did it seem familiar, but too often repeated as a science fiction trope.

Captain Philip Wakefield and our heroes on the starship Excelsior visit an alien planet in search of clues of perhaps humanity’s origins, as well as evidence that the Earth has been visited before by extraterrestrials.

What they find is a number of strange species and artifacts, and apparently a war.

Although the book is over 300 pages long, I found a lot of the action sequences seemed rushed and not very well developed. I believe the author was attempting to communicate the “alieness” of the planet, its life forms, and technology, but the narrative failed to sweep me into its universe. I kept wanting to like the book, but was constantly stumbling over some of its awkwardness.

For instance, the Earth astronauts seemed all too eager to take samples from moving life forms, heedless of their being alive, possibly being able to feel pain, and uncaring about how the aliens might respond, especially with hostility (imagine an alien trying to cut off the tip of one of your fingers for a “sample”).

There were also inconsistencies, such as an alien saying he had never heard of Earth, and then a few sentences later, showing knowledge of the length of a year on Earth. The book seemed in need of a good editor.

I found myself struggling to get through the novel and considering something else to review instead, which isn’t a good sign.

In the Addendum, the author’s note states how he believes Earth has been visited by alien life in the distant past, and that they may be responsible for a number of our ancient artifacts and monuments. People have been floating that idea for decades, and its been the fodder for science fiction stories for about the same amount of time.

If handled well, it’s not a bad premise for a SciFi story, but in this case, I didn’t find myself convinced. This was a tale I would have been more interested in back when I was reading “Doc” Smith’s “Skylark” series, but that was a long time ago.

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