Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson

Burning Paradise - Robert Charles Wilson

Imagine you are an orphan, your parents part of a small but worldwide group investigating an alien presence that appears to be manipulating humanity for unknown reasons, and they were murdered in order to keep that knowledge secret.


You may have the means and opportunity to destroy the entity responsible - would you?


Now imagine that other than your parents and their group, the alien presence has been essentially benevolent. It's been subtly adjusting humanity by manipulating our communications to make us more peaceful since the dawn of radiocommunications. An inflammatory word missing from a news report here. The news anchor given a sympathetic mien there. Nothing dramatic in isolation for the majority, but a totality that has resulted in no major wars since The Great War of 1914-1918. The world carries on as usual otherwise.


Would you still attempt to destroy it, knowing the consequences?


This is the big idea at the centre of this novel, and it's certainly a "big idea", but the story itself is centred on it's characters, primarily the main character Cassie, 19 years old and on the run with her younger brother. I very much liked the big idea here: How can an act of revenge take precedence over the fate of the world? Under what extenuating circumstances could that be justified?


I also liked the writing. Robert Charles Wilson writes like a modern thriller writer, there's a sort of no-nonsense sense of urgency, a get to the pointless and general lack of fluff that suits me. I find his books fairly fast and easy reads.


Unfortunately I wasn't overly enamoured of the lead character, and I found her a little too passive for a lot of the time. Odd considering the first couple of chapters revolve around her jumping into action, going on the run when she realises her own life and that of her young brother are in danger, but once she's met up with an ally or two, she just lets go of the reins and lets others decide what's going on, and what happens next. Even more, she doesn't seem to have much of an opinion about any of what's going on, taking everything she's told on faith and not questioning it. So by the end of the book when she suddenly decides to pick up those reins again and the entire fate of the world is resting on her shoulders, it's a little hard to believe.


Still, it's not a bad book at all.