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The Alien Apocalypse
on January 9, 2008
I've never been drawn to Whitley Strieber's work, but I forced myself to finish this one because I'm very interested in the whole 2012/Mayan calendar phenomenon. I have to say that, taken strictly as a work of fiction, I did not enjoy reading most of this book. The style of nonstop action, similar to many Stephen King and Dean Koonz novels, seems like the script for a typical B movie (which, no doubt, it soon will be). There is so much action, chase scenes and horror that I felt worn out, and rather jaded by the first 50 or so pages. You can only have so many "the most incredible/horrible/unbelievable thing he ever saw" before a sense of hyperbole sets in. For suspense to be effective, you need some build up, not simply constant mayhem. And speaking of the writing style, there's a very sloppy error -one of the main characters' names is alternately spelled "Wiley" and "Wylie." This does not occur only once or twice, but many times. I suppose we're meant to equate this character, who is a writer, with "Whitley" (which is a bit pretentious considering his savior role in the book), but he could at least have chosen one spelling. Another apect of the book that I found annoying was much of the dialog. Most of the novel takes place in Kansas, and Wylie and others often lapse into a drawl that seems more like a sitcom version of Midwestern characters than the way people actually talk.
The metaphysics behind 2012: The War for Souls is similar to the theories of Zacharia Sitchin and David Icke. A race of malevolent reptilian aliens from another dimension is bent on conquering the earth. These beings lack human qualities such as love and compassion, so, in addition to stealing the earth for its land, they also want human souls. The whole idea that the soul can be stolen by technology is a bit bizarre. What makes it really strange is that Strieber also sneaks in Christian beliefs about God into the novel. I say "sneaks" because all of the main characters start out as atheists or agnostics, but as the plot moves along, they start to pray more and more. Also, the book is full of Bible quotes. Yet the notion that souls can be stolen using a higher technology seems to me to be a materialistic idea. As I see it, the whole point of the soul, if you believe in it, is that it is something beyond the material world and indestructible. Of course, this is a work of science fiction, sort of, but I suspect Strieber really believes most of what he is writing here. As a plot device, I don't think it's a bad one. It is possible, after all, that beings such as the reptilians might, in desperation, try to steal souls.
The other major idea of the book is that of multiple or parallel universes. In the novel, there are two earths with different, though similar, histories. One of these earths has two moons; in this one, the alien invaders have taken over most of the planet by December of 2012, close to the time when the "gateway" between worlds will open (December 21, 2012, the date the Mayan calendar supposedly ends). Wiley (or Wylie's) challenge, as a resident of the other earth (our earth, the one with only one moon), is to figure out a way to stop the aliens from entering his world. I like the concept of multiple worlds. It's somehow more credible than the idea that aliens arrive by traveling through space, which would mean many hundreds of light years. Interdimensional travel, by contrast, only requires a gateway. The belief that such gateways exist in sacred spots around the world is pretty standard for believers in alternative archeology, UFOs, etc.
In summary, the basic ideas of 2012: The War for Souls are interesting but I found the execution less than satisfactory. I also did not particularly like the overall style of the book. Despite the complex metaphysics contained in his novel, Strieber is one of those people with a basically dualistic outlook -that is, he believes very strongly in the reality of evil. That is probably why, despite its supposedly hopeful message, it is mostly a very dark book, with many drawn out descriptions of torture, destruction, even cannibalism. In the final analysis, I would categorize Strieber as basically a religious fundamentalist with a new age slant. The book is, indeed, full of quotes from Revelations. 2012 can be seen, in this light, as one interpretation of Armegeddon/the Apocalypse.