Newton’s Ark and Salvation

I’ve just started watching a new CBS TV series called Salvation (well it was new in the US summer, I’m streaming it now on Amazon). My wife is convinced they stole the story from my first novel, Newton’s Ark, but humanity’s salvation ≠ virtual reality, so no.

Nevertheless, I’m struck by the many parallels (MAJOR SPOILER ALERTS for both the book and the TV series):

  • A previously undetected, extinction level asteroid is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth when it’s too late to stop it
  • The US government decides to keep the asteroid secret, with the DoD at the heart of the conspiracy
  • A wealthy industrialist – James Newton in my novel, Darius Tanz, who is basically Elon Musk, in the TV series – realizes the government can’t save humanity and comes up with an escape plan, an “ark” (mine is virtual while in the TV series it’s physical)
  • The industrialist enlists the help of a young, tech savvy guy – Cyrus Jones, a programmer, in my novel, Liam Cole, an astrophysicist, in the TV series
  • A plucky female reporter – Jenny Ryan in my novel, Amanda Neel in the TV series – realizes that the government is hiding something and sets out to expose the secret, and damn the consequences
  • The US president is overthrown and murdered…

What’s the lesson here? Perhaps that my ability to construct a story is good enough to write a major network TV series. Fortunately, with three more novels under my belt since then, my writing has improved!

Post-Apocalyptic Worlds

I watched the movie The Book of Eli recently. I would recommend it. Apart from a great performance from Denzel Washington (of course) it has an interesting premise with a bit of a Sixth Sense twist at the end (although not as well carried off).

What I found interesting was its portrayal of the post-apocalyptic world. The film only hints at what happened but it must have been bad because the world is desolate and barely habitable. I thought the technique the director used to convey this was very well done – the colors are so subdued that the film almost looks like it was shot in black and white. In many scenes the only color is the brown of Denzel’s face.

I’ve been considering the portrayal of post-apocalyptic worlds in books and film recently because my next book Faraday’s Mine will be set in a post-apocalyptic world (the apocalypse arrives in Newton’s Ark but you don’t really get to see what the world is like afterwards). But it is a very different post-apocalyptic world from that portrayed in The Book of Eli or many other stories. The events in Newton’s Ark cause some temporary climate effects, but the ecosystem soon recovers. Imagine a lush world in which robots and other automated systems keep all the infrastructure as good as new, but maybe there’s nobody around to enjoy it…

Fusion Reactors

As I have mentioned previously I was very conscious in writing Newton’s Ark to keep the science as real as possible. The most speculative technology I included was probably the micro fusion reactor – a small, highly portable fusion reactor that could power a satellite for decades.

This technology requires us to find a way to build a self-sustaining fusion reaction that produces positive net energy. And then you have to miniaturize it – I’m going to ignore that challenge assuming we can solve the main problem.

This technology has been a decade away for the past sixty years. Will we ever solve this problem? Who knows. It may really be a only decade away, it may be another sixty years away or it may never happen. It’s hard to extrapolate from the experience to date. There has been some progress but not enough to be completely confident that the fundamental challenge can be overcome.

It is still an active area of research though. In fact I recently received an assignment to design a biometric security system (iris recognition) for an experimental fusion reactor facility!

This post brought to you by author of Newton’s Ark, D.A. Hill.