Friday, June 29, 2012
Hogan wove his understanding of physics into several more well-received novels, from the time-travel alternate history of The Proteus Operation to how a human society with unlimited resources and no past to weigh it down might start over, in Voyage from Yesteryear, to how interaction with an alien race might change both species in The Legend That Was Earth.
But over the course of his career, Hogan's anti-authoritarian views morphed into some strange opinions, ranging from the bizarre (Immanuel Velikovsky's odd version of solar system formation) to the distasteful -- he was not a complete Holocaust denier but did question many of the facts surrounding that horror.
Cradle of Saturn suffers from Hogan's desire to use it to preach some Velikovsky as well as some of his own ideas of what makes a successful society -- which are oddly not very clearly defined. Scientist Landon Keene is part of a private company outstripping governmental efforts in space, and is part of a group welcoming a delegation of Kronians -- people who have colonized some of Saturn's moons and rebuilt human society as they see fit. The Kronians want to warn Earth that a gigantic comet ejected from Jupiter's mass will not miss them as previously believed, but will come so close it will endanger not only civilization but human survival. Velikovsky suggests this is precisely how we got the planet Venus, some 3500 years ago.
In his Giants series, Hogan unfolded his alternate understanding of how people and the world came to be through the story. As the characters tried to solve the mystery of the ancient corpse where no ancient corpse should be and as they uncovered new data, the picture gradually emerged. But in Cradle, the story is incidental to presenting all of Velikovsky's talking points. We even get a conversation between Keene and his co-worker's young son about how dinosaurs could not have existed in Earth's gravity because they were just too big -- the boy coincidentally is researching the subject and wants to show off his work to Landon.
Although the 1999 book nails the intensifying narcissistically consuming culture and connects that to disinterest in space, exploration or anything beyond the pursuit of our own whims, that's about the only thing that goes right for it. Hogan's stubborn devotion to the outre seems to block him from being able to teach and propound through his storytelling as he did quite well earlier in his career.