You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

A thriller set on Jupiter, plus a look back before Bill Nye’s in Austin


An expedition to one of Jupiter’s moons leads to contact with an alien species that may be plotting a takeover of Earth in Lance Erlick’s sci-fi novel, “Xenogeneic: First Contact.”

Dr. Elena Sweetwater Pyetrov is excited to continue her father Alexander’s work on Europa, where his ship disappeared nearly two decades earlier. But when her shuttle inexplicably passes by a necessary pit stop on Earth’s moon, her on-again, off-again fiance, Capt. Marc Carlisle, tells her that something’s pulling them toward Jupiter. After they survive a crash landing on what appears to be Europa, Elena encounters an older man: her father, accompanied by his 13-year-old daughter, Thelma.

He tells Elena of an alien race, the Knoonk, that provided him with food and a communications link to Earth — but as he talks to her, his finger taps out a secret Morse code message: “e-v-i-l.” Soon Elena and Marc find others from their ship and realize that the Knoonk are pushing humans to mate with the promise of sustenance and shelter. It turns out that there are many other captive Earthlings who eventually wage war against one another, while pregnant women and children mysteriously vanish. All the while, the Knoonk are scouring Earth for their Royal Couple, who are hiding there in human form.

Erlick quickly drops readers into the story, getting the characters to Jupiter by the second chapter. Much of the rest of the novel adopts a more leisurely pace as it tells a tale of captive humans resisting oppressive aliens. It’s a potent concept, although it’s occasionally undersold: the frightening notion of some humans worshiping the Knoonk, for example, doesn’t quite offset descriptions that comically downplay the aliens, such as, “The Knoonk had destroyed their food to get them to hook up.” The dynamic between the sisters, however, is quite engaging; Elena overcomes Thelma’s indecipherable speech— which consists of seemingly random rhymes — with Morse code, bonding by using their father’s method of communication. There are quite a few twists as well, including revelations of the Knoonk’s origins and some of the things they’ve done to the humans, as well as a few intriguing developments back on Earth. Overall, it’s a fine launch for a potential series.

An interplanetary tale with effectively slow build that leads to a solid climax.

Bill Nye at SXSW

A sweeping tour of the mechanics of evolution from the Science Guy in “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation” by Bill Nye (released in November 2014; Nye will be at BookPeople from 11 a.m. to noon Sunday to sign bookplates for his new book, “Everything All At Once: How to Unleash Your Inner Nerd, Tap into Radical Curiosity and Solve Any Problem,” scheduled for release in July. Vouchers for the new book are $26.99.)

“Science is the way we know nature and our place within it,” writes Nye, who is open-minded and curious but also someone who likes the best explanations devised by the human project: “In science, a hypothesis should not only explain the evidence we have found,” he writes, “it should also make predictions about things not yet discovered. … Science is inherently work in progress.”

What kind of evidence do we have about evolution; what kind of dynamic thinking, informed by all we have experienced, can we bring to its understanding? What method of inquiry allows us to advance our understanding? Nye neatly deconstructs the arguments against evolution, from basic mistakes of biology and physics to more cosmological concerns — that the naysayers “avoid the exploration of evolution because it reminds us all that humankind may not be that special in nature’s scheme. What happens to other species also happens to us” — and he takes very seriously the problems posed by introducing creationism to school curriculums around the country.

While he has no trouble sinking his teeth into the creationists and anti-evolution activists, Nye really takes flight when he is trying to puzzle out how we get here from there or considering the strangeness of sexual selection (“Consider the peacock, the epitome of costly signaling”). In addition to Darwin, the author examines the contributions of a host of scientists from a variety of disciplines, including biology, geology and genetics. With the smoothness and encouragement that mark his writing, Nye suggests that “(t)he only way to get the answers is to keep looking at living things and learning more about the process by which we all came to be.”

Proof positive that evolutionary theory can be popular and inviting.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Insight and Books

John Young: ‘Deep Throats’ lined up for a city block
John Young: ‘Deep Throats’ lined up for a city block

Newly elevated, helium-inflated, a president for a bare blink of an eye, Donald Trump chose as one of his first presidential acts a declaration of war on the press. So, how’s that going? Trump called reporters “the enemies of the people.” Henchman Steve Bannon called the media “the opposition party.” Interesting claim...
Letters to the editor: May 23, 2017
Letters to the editor: May 23, 2017

Re: May 17 article, “How to store spices and herbs in a hot Texas summer.” I’m compelled to comment on the article by Shefaly Ravula, which perpetuates misconceptions and stereotypes. No, all Indians do not keep their homes at 79 degrees. No, we do not lower the temp only when the “American” friends come over. No, we aren&rsquo...
Commentary: Texas should follow New Mexico’s plan to end ‘lunch shaming’
Commentary: Texas should follow New Mexico’s plan to end ‘lunch shaming’

The lunchroom is an aspect of school that some remember fondly — a place for friendships to be formed, dates to be asked or potential food fights to be averted. For many others, the lunchroom experience is one of shame, humiliation and — at best — a cold cheese sandwich. When a child can’t pay a school lunch bill, the school...
Herman: Separate but equal has its day in Texas House
Herman: Separate but equal has its day in Texas House

The caption — that language at the top of a bill that says what it’s about — says Senate Bill 2078 is “relating to the duties of (school officials) regarding multihazard emergency operations plans and other school safety measures.” When the bill came up in the Texas House, there was talk about various kinds of school emergencies...
Hunter: How Donald Trump’s supporters are just like Hillary Clinton’s
Hunter: How Donald Trump’s supporters are just like Hillary Clinton’s

Last year I wrote, “There is one of two ways we can look at our elected officials, particularly those occupying or vying for the highest office in the land: That they are somehow above the law, as President Richard Nixon famously once said—‘If the president does it, that means it’s not illegal,’ or we can expect that all...
More Stories