Being a book blogger means its not unusual to receive unsolicited books in the mail to review. Its actually one of the perks of this job, but it is also a lot like playing Russian Roulette. You just never know if you are going to get a good or bad book until you read it. So when I was mailed The Last Exodus by Paul Tassi, first book in the Earthborn Trilogy, I was intrigued by the story description enough on the back of the book to give it a shot, even though I ran the usual risk of whether or not I would enjoy the experience.
The Last Exodus is set directly after an alien invasion has devastated Earth. All the world’s cities have been destroyed, the oceans are receding and the planet is heating up significantly. Its predicted that the Earth will become unlivable in just a few years and for the remaining humans it means every moment is a desperate state of survival, even for those who have turned to cannibalism. Our tale follows Lucas, who has traveled cross-country to reach his hometown of Portland to reunite with his family. What he discovers instead is that the city is a crater and is wife and son are most likely dead. On the verge of losing hope, he comes upon an alien survivor who is struggling to fix his ship. This alien, who comes to be named Alpha, is actually a traitor to his own race and with the help of Lucas and a woman named Asha (who coincidentally has tried to kill Lucas in the past) thinks he can fix the ship and fly it to his people’s enemy who they have been locked in an endless war with. It won’t be easy as Alpha may unknowingly have information that could turn the tide of the war against his people and they will do anything to stop him before that can happen.
The Last Exodus is…just okay. It had its moments and I actually thought the ending was very well done and left just enough unanswered to make me interested in what happened next without annoying me with excessive mystery. That being said, the book had its issue. I found the characters to be rather bland and the Lucas/Asha romance could be seen from a mile away. There were also too many instances of magical sci-fi technology that hand-waved away the usual problems of space travel. Take the faster-than-lighter travel Alpha’s ship used. Apparently water is an important ingredient and it was one of the reasons Earth was invaded in the first place. Yet we know space is full of water and ice so why invade a primitive, yet nuclear armed, civilization when you could just capture and melt a comet instead? Granted Paul does give an ideological reason for why humanity was attached along with the economical one, which is fine, but it is still a noticeable plot hole.
All the above would usually not be enough for me dismiss this book entirely and if you want a grimdark SF adventure without much depth, The Last Exodus is probably for you. What ruined the book for me, however, was this text from early on in the story:
[Lucas] had been a religious man before they arrived. Their appearance broke his faith like it did so many others, but not to the point where it drove him to participate in the mass suicides that happened around the world. Priests, rabbis, clerics, and their congregations had all been driven mad by physical proof that everything they had devoted their lives to was a lie.
Um…what? Is Paul arguing that the existence of aliens prove that human religion is a lie? That seems silly considering that numerous religions have discussed the theological implications of extraterrestrial life and there are numerous believers among the SF community who haven’t lost their faith because they read stories about intelligent non-humans. Perhaps Paul is arguing that the belief that God made us in his own image would shatter people’s faith if they learned of other intelligent life, but wouldn’t that only effect the Abrahamic religions that came out of the Middle East and not the local faiths of Asia, Africa and America? Even if that’s the case, would the existence of other people’s really change the fact in the eye’s of a Jew that he or she is a member of God’s chosen people?
Heck, many, if not all, of the Abrahamic religions have ignored or downplayed certain parts of their holy books, even those who take a literal interpretation of them, which means their beliefs are resilient enough to deal with alien life. There is even some precedent in our history for dealing with unexpected people such as the Native Americans, who weren’t mentioned in the Christian Bible despite many people at the time taking it as the truth directly from God. Even the legend of Prester John hints at the struggle Christians had to go through when the reality of the world didn’t fit exactly with what their priests and books were telling them, and yet they survived and thrived regardless. See also heliocentrism, evolution, the Big Bang, dinosaurs, etc. for other issues that contradict major religions without destroying them entirely.
I may be nitpicking a little, but as you read The Last Exodus you start noticing Paul relies heavily on religious terms and themes (The Last Exodus, Noah, the Ark, depictions of heaven/hell and angels/demons, etc.) giving you the sense that he is trying to tell a spiritual story amount a man who lost his faith following a horrible catastrophe and is now trying to get it back. That would be fine, but the paragraph I criticized above makes me doubt Paul did a lot research on the subject of religion before writing his book or his editor made a major mistake by keeping that in.
In the end, The Last Exodus is not a bad book, but I wouldn’t go as far to call it a great, or even a good, book. It has its moments, but the book has too many cliches and struggles to give an realistic depiction of human religion. That is all I can say really. I can’t really give a strong recommendation for The Last Exodus, but those looking for a story about humanity rising from the ashes of their destroyed world and won’t be bothered by the clumsy themes on faith, may find some enjoyment out of it.