First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility
by Paul S West
A thematic, genre-blending speculative thriller with a diverse cast & a strong female protagonist.
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First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility
The world is in chaos from a two-day battery of explosions in many of its major cities.
A week after the explosions, journalist Adam Grey wakes up in the hospital. He pieces together the events leading to his injury, involving a woman named Angela.
Senator Cyrus Reardon has been appointed the new President of the United States' decimated government. A politician who isn't generally fond of his peers, he's faced with leading a discordant provisional Cabinet, addressing the nation's growing panic, and trying to separate fact from fiction.
Confronted with the truth behind the attacks, they--along with the world at large--are forced to reconsider conventional assumptions about human nature and possibility.
Everything we know is until we find out otherwise...
Angela fidgeted uncomfortably. “Adam, as far as the Terranauts are concerned I am essentially a fugitive. I know the basic idea of the Project, but as for its day-to-day developments I can only provide analysis from prior knowledge—which, even for one of my importance to the Project, was deliberately limited by the Directors. I have abandoned the two-way contact device I was given, as it can also be used to track my movements. I--” There was a tentative knock at the door. Adam’s head snapped toward the door and then back at Angela; he put an index finger up to his pursed lips, requesting silence. He quietly padded over to the door and looked through the peephole. Outside was a tall, dark skinned man, who stood with restrained impatience in the hallway. As he raised his fist to knock again, Adam responded. “Who is it?”
Amazon review by Casey Burke
The second chapter of West's novel opens with a quotation: "It requires a very unusual mind to undertake an analysis of the obvious." The unusual mind, here, is the author's; the analysis of the obvious is what he undertakes in his debut novel, with extraordinary results.
This quote strikes at the heart of the premise of First Cause. The premise is, in a sense, obvious. Life as we know it is coming to an end; an alien species appears hellbent on our destruction; and our fate depends on the strength and intellect of a handful of people. The genre is essentially science fiction, and the novel embraces all of the best that science fiction has to offer. It's exciting, and it's engrossing. On its surface, it's a page-turner. It deftly jumps between decades and protagonists, with a careful continuity unusual for an author's first work. At first blush, it's a thriller, and an unobservant reader could fly through the novel and finish satisfied and entertained.
At its core, however, First Cause is much more than a sci-fi thriller, and its goal is not merely to entertain. The "obvious" themes of any great work of fiction are present here as an expression of the human experience: mortality, love, good and evil, hope and futility, the search for greater meaning in our existence. In requiring us to examine these themes, we, as readers, undertake our own analyses of the obvious. We're left to consider how our civilization evolved to its current state, and whether there is any hope for us, as a human society, without some greater intervention. The novel asks us to question what it means to be human, and explore the spectrum of our capabilities- our capability to create beauty, freedom, and fairness, and our capability to destroy ourselves when we focus only on our differences. An analysis of the obvious becomes, through the characters and themes of the novel, a refreshly introspective exploration of the human condition.
It is not an easy task to create a thrilling, page-turning adventure that explores all of these themes, all while constructing a cast of genuine characters that endear themselves to the reader as the book progresses. West's ability to construct such a novel is, indeed, the mark of an unusual mind. I highly recommend this book.
Amazon review by A.C. Lowe
There can be no doubt that this work is not just science fiction with all of its possibilities, but social commentary as well.
Centering around a group of advanced human beings who, after spending centuries on earth evolving at a faster rate than all of the rest of humanity, leave earth for another planet. And all of this in secret! Now they have returned with a highly trained and evolved sub group. Their goal, to retake the earth.
Because of their keen knowledge of lesser humans than themselves they intend to use a minimum of military force. And instead will rely on fear, suspicion and terror to achieve their goals.
Striking at key points all over the globe, assasinating leaders and legislators world wide, it isn't long before the finger pointing and accusations between people,collegues,ideologies,religions and nations begins.
Panic is rampant as everything goes according to plan, but then, an unforeseen circmstance develops. All of the training and evolution in the world, and apparently another world as well, cannot suppress the human psyche. Paul West has created a viable and likely premise for his story. He has also provided us with a number of unique characters who keep us guessing through out his story. His use of historical accuracy adds substance and reality to his dialogue.
First Cause begs the question what do we do when we are in danger ? How do we react ?
Paul West has left us hanging and looking for more. We look forward to the sequel to this book.
Amazon review by Paul Dickinson
To begin with, I received this book as a contest prize from Goodreads First Reads. I had no idea what it was about, nor did I look it up anywhere. I didn't even look for any reviews (which I normally do before I read a book).
With an explosive beginning, this book kept my attention to the end. At first, I thought it would be a book about the United States being attacked by Islamic terrorists (since that is what everyone has on their minds). However, my beliefs were dispelled a short time into the book when it was revealed that an offshoot of humanity was attempting to gain a foothold and return their populace to Earth.
As we discover from Angela, there is a colony of humans known as the Luceri on one of the moons of a neighboring planet they named Lucero. They left Earth in the 1930's to escape the conditions at the time. She is a part of an advance "defense force" sent to Earth to begin the process of their return. The Luceri believe they can bring peace to the world and advance humankind.
The Luceri "terranauts" as the defense force is called, sets events into motion that test the morals and ethics of people around the world. Explosions that rocked every major city on the planet within a few days of each other had the peoples of the world blaming each other for attacking.
The United States government is decimated and run by a "cabinet" chosen to work with the provisional President. Martial law is declared to help calm everyone down. Unfortunately, there are those in the group who have their own agendas.
Angela decides to help against her own people and becomes prey for the other Luceri on Earth. She manages to stay hidden for a time with Adam (who helped her understand that there is more to humanity than she was taught). The two are captured by rogue members of the government who try to pump information out of them. Thankfully, Adam, through his contacts, had already been it contact with the President and informed him of what was going on. When the President discovered Adam and Angela were being held against their will, he ordered them released.
The book could be considered a corollary to life here in the real world. A nation is attacked on their own soil (think September 11). Members within the government attempt to curtail civil rights and gain power for themselves. The public is kept in the dark about what Is really happening. The Luceri could very well have been from the same terrorist organization that attacked the United States in 2001. It's not as if they were truly aliens. They were human.
In all, First Cause is a well written, thought provoking book (although it did end with the fates of everyone up in the air). It's an exciting read for anyone whether they enjoy science fiction or not. If not for the fact of the Luceri being an advanced offshoot of humanity who left the planet, this really would not read as a science fiction novel. It does not contain any far-fetched technology or a lot of technobabble. It's a book anyone can read and enjoy.
I look forward to Mr. West's next book.
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