“Nothing is more painful to the human mind than, after the feelings have been worked up by a quick succession of events, the dead calmness of inaction and certainty which follows and deprives the soul both of hope and fear.” Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, says the epigraph for J.M. Erickson’s novel Future Prometheus II, explaining J.M. Erickson’s trilogy title, Future Prometheus.
In Future Prometheus II , we catch up with black ops Lt. Jose Melendez and his team. After attempting a cryogenic experiment to save mankind that was meant to last for just a few months goes very wrong, he woke up 160 years in the future, surrounded by APs, Artificial Persons in the new mega-state of Nemericana.
This book immediately picks up where the first book ended, supposedly, as there is no recap or lead-in to the story. If you haven’t read the first book, it would be difficult to surmise what is going on, so it is recommended you start with Future Prometheus. The author would do well to add a recap to each book to help readers joining the story here.
The book starts with Melendez and Singh working with the APs in the team, to prepare and protect themselves against possible attack, giving detailed descriptions of the people sheltering around them.
Around twenty pages in, Melendez gives a journal entry to set the scene, which really helps with the set up of this second installment. As the team shelter in a subterranean nuclear base in this Post-Apocalyptic world, we learn about the traveling party and can sense the religious nature of Melendez’ own thoughts as he renames forts they come across with Catholic monikers in a seemingly last-ditch attempt at prayer.
With an unknown tribe watching them, the military group are experiencing a phenomenon as the APs start to evolve into more human, sentient beings; sleeping and developing facial expressions. Here we hit on the theme of the series – like future Frankenstein’s monsters, these creatures co-exist with their human colleagues and reach for power, with Melendez’ Bible quotes making little dent on their understanding. In some ways, the dialogue often reads like Spock to Kirk, and sci-fi fans will enjoy the banter. The APs have some real quirks and detail that develop as they become more alive. Aurora Prime is particularly engaging as she battles for supremacy as an evolved artificial intelligence. The story grapples with concepts surrounding sex, identity and the age-old theme of good vs. evil – but who are the evil and who are the good?
Characters are very well-rounded, and have detailed appearances and idiosyncrasies, giving them all a real texture and exciting visual reference for the reader. Melendez has a profile and brings his beliefs – and the fact he has been in cryogenic state for 160 years – into his perspectives, and has some depth. Conversations are crafted, spoken out loud and convincing, as if from a screenplay – in fact much of this work could easily become a riveting TV show something like Falling Skies or V.
That aside, this is a pretty enjoyable read. The setting is reminiscent of the movie The Book of Eli with its vast, sparse landscapes and hiding places – the military still standing, but only just, dealing with renegades and madmen. The action scenes, with drones in the air and all kinds of survival tactics, are some of the best parts of this book. Erickson sure knows his military fiction – Future Prometheus II is both well-researched and brimming with technical know-how to the point that it sends the reader into quite a fantasy of how exciting it might be to enlist and somehow save the planet.
This book would appeal to those interested in combat and action settings with an original Post Apocalypse twist. But I do recommend you read the first book in the series in order to understand the whole story before opening this one.
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