Mars – A Noah’s Ark of a civilization headed by Master Architect Janus, is a highly civilized race, making a last-ditch attempt to save Earth’s many species from extinction – more than sixty million years ago, as dinosaurs inhabit the Pale Blue Dot mankind now calls home. The Master Architects, a race something like mythological gods, are guardians of the planets known to exist in the Solar System, experimenting with terraforming the massive orbs that float around them. But when two planets collide and cause a disaster on an unimaginable scale, all is nearly lost.
Millions of years later, Andrea Perez, a student working on experiments for her doctoral paper, is faced by Federal agents with national security concerns – but what could her tests with holographic prisms have done to interfere with anything so serious? And then there’s the issue of research data that seems to be able to self-destruct…
This is a very enjoyable and more lightweight style science fiction adventure novella with an interesting backdrop – not many stories of this kind start in the deep past. Added to this, the magnitude of colliding planets and the poetry of unrequited love, old gods and synchronicity is played out well. Erickson uses ancient metaphors in the role of narrator to give the tale a layered appeal.
There are echoes of Cloud Atlas’ grand ideas, as well as a definite Dr Who feel to the piece, with Master Architects similar to the Timelords of the BBC show. It is a very “meta” setup, where Nature’s very structure and history’s core have been altered to suit the tale, but Erickson writes as if the world he describes could be a parallel one, or one the reader has not yet considered. Sometimes the ideas don’t quite hang together even within the universe Erickson has crafted, but for the most part it’s a fun episode in escapism across times and realities.
Given the astronomical immensity of Erickson’s imagination, there would have been room for this novella to spread into a more detailed, worked book that would probably enhance the depth of story possible here. Sometimes the jumps across huge plot points, summed up in a few sentences, would have been better explained in a few pages.
Maybe the point is that Intelligent Design remains simple to appeal to an audience that enjoys a reliably thrilling journey into a classic kind of science fiction. While others try to fiddle with subgenres by adding various parts, it is to Erickson’s credit that he fulfills the absolute criteria for a proper science fiction novel: i.e. science made into fiction – and that should be very enjoyable to sci-fi purists seeking out this exact kind of work.