Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
by Mark Rosendorf
2012, ISBN: 978-1-938758-17-1, Paperback 215 pages
When astronomer Gordon Maxwell discovers what appears to be a rift in space that is possibly a wormhole less than half a million miles from Earth, the authorities go to some trouble to deny knowledge of it to the general public and to discredit those people involved. One such is the narrator protagonist, student Alexander Copeland. The scene is set and the existing conflict is added to by the brutish military presence of Sergeant Reynolds, who bullies everyone.
Seven years later, while teaching a class, Alex is summoned to the Principal’s office where Reynolds, now a Colonel, recruits Alex and his cat to go on a mission through the wormhole. Alex reasons that the resurrection of the mission means something dramatic has happened. He’s right. Even though society is not permitted to know anything, a probe sent through the wormhole by Maxwell, has returned intact with a mysterious message. A problem for me is that Maxwell had sent a greeting to possible aliens the other side of the wormhole telling them exactly where Earth is – without consulting us. In my opinion it is pure folly to tell strangers where you live. They might decide you are worth enslaving, plundering and eating. Until we know better, a more cautious approach to contacting aliens is preferable. NASA is culpable in this folly by sending such an invitation to pillage us in 1972 with Pioneer 10 and later with Voyager.
The original astronomer, Maxwell, died a while after his project was cancelled and his daughter incarcerated in what we might call a hospital for the insane. She has been released for this new mission, along with Gilda a teenage brat (with redeeming qualities) and various other misfits the world wouldn’t miss if the mission didn’t return. This includes the cat and the military egoist, Reynolds. Never has such a crew been assembled, who have not received astronaut training and don’t even know how the toilet works or been tested for cat allergies. Poor Alex realizes something is seriously wrong here, and so does the reader. However, we continue because we are drawn into finding out about the wormhole and what’s on the other side, assuming the plucky crew are not disassembled, or if they are that they don’t reconstruct with each other’s body parts.
This story would appeal to teenagers: most of the characters are young, while the elderly (over 21) are quite crazy. There’s love interest, pets, a thirst for enquiry and an urge to prove the authorities wrong.
There are lines I wish I’d written such as: ‘I almost swallowed my Adam’s apple,’ and some that made me think out loud: ‘My tongue jumped to the back of my throat.’
I have to thank the author for making me investigate the true meaning of ‘outer space’. After 60 years of reading science fiction, I’ve always considered that phrase to relate to the volume of the universe beyond our solar system but in Status Quo – an apt title, by the way as the reader will discover although not ultimately – the phrase is used ubiquitously for anywhere above the Earth even before the Moon is reached. I found that the Karman line is 100 km above the Earth’s surface and defines ‘outer space’ such as that used by the 1979 Moon Treaty. I mentioned this in surprise to my wife, who already knew!
I will not spoil the ending, but if you enjoy a space adventure with aliens that are really alien – kudos to Mark Rosendorf for avoiding cliché there – and if you are not too worried about scientific accuracy, topped off with a satisfying finale, then this is the book for you.
About the reviewer: Geoff Nelder lives in rural England within easy cycle rides of the Welsh mountains. He is the author of Escaping Reality, Exit, Pursued by Bee, and ARIA: Left Luggage. Geoff is an editor for Adventure Books of Seattle.