April 3, 2007 > September Snow
Robert A. Garfinkle
By Robert Balmanno
Regent Press; 346 pages; $15.95
This science fiction novel - the first of four books of a series entitled "The Blessings of Gaia" - is set in locals around the world a few decades from now. Written by South SF Bay author Robert Balmanno, the story describes a world devastated by a combination of an 11 year global war which kills over a billion people, and massive environmental damage caused by global warming and eradication of the ozone layer. People are dying of sun poisoning, unless they are among the privileged few protected by domes.
Sounds gruesome, but it gets worse when world leaders, known as the Magisters, who have established a new religion called Gaia, after the Greek goddess of the Earth, turn this order from its intended purpose of preserving the Earth into a violent regime that exterminates anyone 60 years or older and the peasants of the world. All religions, except the new Gaia are ruthlessly crushed and all copies of anything (books, films, etc.) related to history prior to the new regime are being systematically destroyed. The Magisters also establish giant nuclear-powered wind machines to control the environment.
A rebel group emerges, headed by September Snow whose late husband had been a distinguished scientist before the regime killed him. In an attempt to kidnap a high-level Magister, September's troops mistakenly capture a former writer, Tom Novak, addicted to Vita-Man, a drug that makes men more virile and slows aging but whose sinister side effect makes addicts receptive to Magisters propaganda. Everywhere, TV-like wall screens spew propaganda and spy on the population. September, her daughter Iona and a "clean" Tom emerge as pivotal characters in the struggle for the survival of humanity and its home on Earth.
I found this debut novel to be a very intriguing story and I certainly look forward to reading the next book in the series, "The Runes of Iona". "September Snow" is unfortunately plagued with novice writer mistakes, such as ping-pong dialogue but I am sure Balmanno will correct this in his next book. Despite these minor flaws, Balmanno has created a page-turning thriller that will captivate and get you thinking about how today's global problems may haunt us all in the near future. I would not let these minor flaws steer you away from this story.