From the back cover of Terra Nova: The Search –
In a small central California town, a seismologist working for the United States Geological Survey has made a terrifying discovery. A recent seismic phenomenon is predicting global volcanic activity that threatens to wipe mankind from the face of the earth. Fearing widespread panic and civil disobedience, it is decided to keep the truth a secret from the public. In order to save the human race, the President pushes forward with a dramatic initiative to overhaul NASA and begin a new mission: to colonize deep space.
The newly formed deep space team must harness the technology of researcher and single-dad Tom Scolari, but with their eyes focused on the stars, the odds are against them at home. News of the earth’s demise is on the verge of becoming public, and increasingly violent eruptions continue to mount around the globe. The survival of the human race rests upon the shoulders of a few, and time is running out.
Terra Nova: The Search is a book with a sweeping, epic plot. The destruction of the Earth looms in the immediate future, and bold, coordinated steps are called for to rescue humanity. In the best traditions of Footfall and “Independence Day,” a concerted effort from all of Earth’s societies is our only hope.
Unfortunately, those traditions are let down by the very lack of such a world-wide effort, or even any attempt to begin one. Instead, the plot calls forth a series of loners, beginning with the well-worn movie image of the last employee left in a once-proud laboratory, toiling away unseen and uncared-for, who notices the anomalous data, then moving on to the equally well-known maverick scientist and his “impossible” physics. The effort to save humanity is a very unilateral affair, resting solely with the bureaucracies of the United States, and the story swiftly strangles in its own web of implausibility.
After a very cinematic and completely unnecessary prologue, the story begins in what is either a state-of-the-art seismology lab or a forgotten backwater of science (depending on which paragraph you read), where data streams from three seismographs are apparently recorded on hard drives and ignored, except for quarterly reviews. The sole employee of this lab, when he finds the anomalies which set the story in motion, reports directly to the head of the US Geological Survey. He arranges a meeting in Washington, and when he gets there, he finds the Secretary of Homeland Security is an unexpected third attendee. Leaving the meeting, the Secretary calls the President of the United States to request that he meet with the lab technician from the other side of the nation. The president replies “All right. I’ll clear my schedule.” When the meeting takes place, it seems to be in a hotel conference room. Just the three of them. No aides, no Secret Service, nobody.
Written very much in the mode of a made-for-TV movie, the book strings one implausible scene after another with an eye for visual effect and no thought whatsoever for character motivation or development. The lab technician wipes pizza grease from his fingers into his beard, not because he’s the sort of half-wit who would do such a thing, but because it would look good on camera. The private secretary of the director of the USGS answers the phone as though she’s expecting direct calls from the public, not because such a thing might happen, but because it’s the sort of scene you’d find in a movie on TV.
I believe there’s a strong story buried in here somewhere, but it’s so hidden by the thicket of implausibilities, inconsistencies, and confusing sentence structures that I’m not sure it can ever be heard.