Reviewed by Maurice A. Williams
The Future Happens Twice
The Perennial Project
by Matt Browne
2007, ISBN: 978-1-84401-830-7, 720 pages, $23.95
Here is a science fiction novel that takes the reader on a fascinating journey into a top-secret government sponsored program to send frozen embryos, surgically split into duplicates, one set of which will sent on a 42,000-year voyage to start a human colony on an earth-like planet orbiting a star eighty-two light years from earth. Unlike most science fiction novels, The Future Happens Twice is very well written and takes the reader through a skillfully plotted mystery as well. There are three earlier sets of the clones already living in the United States whose health is carefully monitored to see if these clones will develop any hereditary illnesses when they reach thirty years of age in one set, and sixty years of age in the earlier set, and a third set much younger living in a duplicate space ship hidden in an underground vault to test how well the clones can endure landing the simulated space ship on the distant planet when they are eighteen. This way the government will know before launch what the long-term health and capabilities will be of all sets of clones in the experiment.
Two human-like androids will be in charge of the voyage. Shortly after launch, the androids will put themselves into “sleep” mode and remain that way, along with the fourth set of cloned and frozen embryos, and four human engineers placed into deep slumber mode until eighteen years before arrival at the planet. Then a sensor device will activate the main computer to “awake” the androids so they can thaw the four-person human crew, place the embryos in artificial wombs and, after birth, they and the four humans care for and educate the two clones as they grow. When the children are eighteen, they, with the help of the androids, would land the spaceship. The ship will contain thousands of additional frozen embryos that will be brought to term once a colony is established by the four humans and two androids. Interesting storyline! Today, there is a lot of serious interest in being able to do something like this, so the plot is not too outlandish.
Browne, a talented writer of fiction, developed his main characters in considerable depth. Parts of his book read like a detective mystery with many twists and turns as his main characters try to unravel some inexplicable events in their lives. The plot starts with one of the sixty-year-old clones seeing a young man that looked exactly like the sixty-year-old when he was that age, and the plot really gets interesting when the main characters discover that the government is behind this mystery in their lives. The government has cloned them along with other sets of identical clones in preparation for one set to be sent to a distant planet to start a human colony there.
Since this ambitious project is both illegal and immoral, the government plans an elaborate cover-up until after they launch the real spaceship. Everyone employed by the government on this project has been sworn to secrecy. Some of them have serious second-thoughts dealing with the moral and legal consequences of what they are doing and the duplicity of the government in expecting them to be part of it.
Browne now launches into an interesting portrayal of the how some of the characters struggle with their consciences as they deal with their dilemmas. They think the government has no business violating the rights of the children used for the experiment and the rights of the clones to be sent on the voyage. Browne’s masterful way of tracing the thoughts of his characters, as they wrestle with their concerns about the dilemma they find themselves in, is actually much better reading than the science fiction portion of the novel.
Matt Browne is very well informed about what can already be done and what is still in the realm of possibility, and he has a good perception of what is morally correct and legal. He uses his knowledge to make The Future Happens Twice sound plausible. Even if you are not a devotee of science fiction, you will enjoy this gripping novel and learn quite a bit about science as well. The Future Happens Twice is one of those rare books that, once you start reading it, you cannot set it down.
You will enjoy this book, not only will it stimulate you to think about some of the moral and ethical problems in today’s modern world, but it will take you on an adventuresome journey into the plausible future. In spite of Browne’s skill in creating mystery and suspense, he is still a science fiction writer and you will not be disappointed when the spaceship does land on the distant planet. You will be surprised at what they discover.
About the reviewer: Maurice A. Williams is an author of inspirational articles and poems and has published a book: Revelation, Fall of Judea, Rise of the Church. Prior to his retirement, he was Director of Research and Development for a firm that did business all over the world. He has traveled to many countries himself. He is also author of technical articles in scientific journals and chapters in technical books. He has four children and six grandchildren, and lives at home with his wife. You can visit his Web Site http://www.mauriceawilliams.com