Wasteland of Flint

by Thomas Harlan
Reviewed date: 2006 May 11
Rating: 2
481 pages
cover art

Wasteland of Flint is an alternate history mystery fantasy gussied up in the trappings of science fiction. The story background posits an Earth where the Mexica (Aztec) empire rules the world and all other cultures jockey for second fiddle in a complex caste system. Although Mexica's science is advanced and the empire stretches many light-years, xeno-archaeologists have found evidence of a much older, more advanced extinct civilization called the First Sun.

Gretchen Anderssen, a low-caste Swede, is an archaeologist sent to study possible First Sun artifacts found on the planet Ephesus III. Curiously, the Imperial navy sends along a small starship to assist her. When they arrive at Ephesus III, they discover the previous expedition has mysteriously vanished. Gretchen and Imperial judge Green Hummingbird work to uncover what happened on Ephesus III, and while on the planet they see what can only be described as ghosts. Green Hummingbird seems to expect the ghosts, but he refuses to divulge why.

Wasteland of Flint qualifies better as fantasy than science fiction. Most of the phenomena that Gretchen and Hummingbird experience on Ephesus III are never explained by science, but are written off as para-science episodes. Hummingbird dismisses science and logic as shallow constructions of feeble human intellect, desirable only to those with a base animal passion for controlling and manipulating reality. Hummingbird explains the universe as essentially illogical and irrational, and that the visual and aural phenomena present on Ephesus III are a glimpse into the true nature of reality, the truth that science can never reveal.

If an utter disdain for science doesn't qualify this book as fantasy garbage, I don't know what does.

Other gripes: the author is inconsistent in how he refers to the characters. Gretchen Anderssen will be referred to as "Gretchen" in one sentence and "Anderssen" in the next. There is no discernible pattern to the differing usages. This is an error that no competent writer should make and no competent editor should miss.

The book is not stand-alone. Nothing is resolved. We get a few crumbs of information to whet our appetite for the next book, but nothing of consequence is revealed about the First Sun artifacts. We never learn how much Green Hummingbird knows or how he knows it. The auditory and visual phenomena on Ephesus III are never explained.

The Mexica (Aztec) backdrop is useless. The Mexica culture in Wasteland of Flint is underdeveloped; it consists of a few lines of poetry, some strange names, and vague references to a complex system of social castes. The Imperial ship is captained and crewed by a mostly Japanese crew and so Japanese culture actually has more impact than the veneer of Mexica culture.

The writing is bogs down in painful blow-by-blow descriptions of piloting and other technical activities. These are neither interesting nor important to the plot.

I do not recommend Wasteland of Flint.

Archive | Search