Monday, December 27, 2021

Le Tellier's The Anomaly


I didn't like The Anomaly as well as the reviewers I read afterwards and none of them addressed the implications I saw, but perhaps I'm wrong.

When an Air France flight encounters a "storm of the century" storm, the Boeing 787 survives and the pilot asks for landing instructions.  The people on the ground are amazed in that this very flight arrived 106 days previously.  The U.S. government assembles all the experts who interview the duplicate 240 or so passengers and crew.  Much of the novel then deals with a few key characters, the ones who landed in March.  The duplicates land 106 days later in June.   The characters are somewhat interesting and were they developed further they would have been more-so, but that would have detracted from the plot.

One of the key theories about what is going on (provided by American scientists and mathematicians) is that a superior intelligence is testing various scenarios on a number of different worlds.  Thus, if this theory is correct, then the earth is being tested when the Boeing 787 from a duplicate world is allowed to leak into our world and land with a duplicate set of human beings. 

However, the American experts do surprisingly well sorting things out, getting the duplicates to meet their counterparts -- mildly heart-warming except for the hitman from the June landing who murders his March counterpart.

The novel is funny in a lot of places, but much as, perhaps, Dr. Strangelove was funny.  The American President, obviouslyTrump (Le Tellier apparently thought he would win the last election) is too stupid to understand any more than the rudiments of what is going on.  Thus, at the end of the novel when a third Air France duplicate breaks through a storm and asks for landing instructions, Trump has it shot down. 

And the last page is filled with gibberish which I take to mean our world is breaking apart.  We have failed the test. 

Earlier we learn that the Chinese have also received a duplicate set of passengers and crew from a flight landing there, but they merely kept it secret.   The U.S., where the public has a right to know, didn't have the option of keeping anything secret; so as the president says something like, "we can't keep having these duplicate airplanes landing on our air fields." 

And implied by all of this is that the autocratic Chinese are managing the situation better than the democratic U.S.  Also implied is that the U.S. ought not to allow someone like Trump to become president and have the power to respond stupidly to a superior species. 

And so, if my interpretation is correct, and it probably isn't since none of the reviews I read agree with it, this is a well-written novel with a weak plot handled inadequately.  Had I read this in the Marine Corps when several of us were reading collections of SF short stories, I would have had a great laugh over it, but I wouldn't have thought it any better than many of the other stories I read. 

I recall one short story where a genius inventor who did his best work while drunk woke up one morning to discover that he'd created a robot, but he couldn't recall why, and this robot defied him and wouldn't do anything he said.  Finally at the end of the story, the inventor finally figures it out.  "Robot," he orders. "Bring me a beer!"  "Yes sir," the robot replies and scurries off to get him one.

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