Sunday, August 22, 2010


Phytosphere by Scott Mackay
Penguin Group, 2007
Mass Market Paperback, 376 pages
ISBN-13: 9780451461582
highly recommended

After settlement negotiations between humanity and the alien Tarsalans go horribly wrong, the Earth is engulfed in a mysterious green sphere-blocking all sunlight from reaching the surface. Only two scientists-one isolated on the Moon's lunar colony, the other trapped on a dying Earth-possess the minds and the means to destroy the sphere before it renders the world completely barren...
My Thoughts:

Phytosphere is a tale of alien invasion and postapocalyptic survival in the distant future. And, why yes, it is a good combination.

When negotiations for immigration rights fail, the alien Tarsalans surround the Earth with a mysterious green, light-blocking shroud, dubbed the phytosphere. The Tarsalans consider the phytosphere a teaching tool, while Earth considers it a declaration of war. The action follows the Thorndike brothers, Gerry and Neil, as they try to discover a way to eliminate the phytosphere. Gerry is on the moon when the Phytosphere is put into place while Neil is on the Earth. Also stuck on the Earth is Gerry's family, wife Glenda and their two children.

The group on the moon trying to discover a way to eliminate the phytosphere follows Gerry's leadership at first, while on the Earth, Neil, Gerry's arrogant brother and scientific advisor to the president, summarily discounts any information that comes from the moon, believing he is the only one who could possibly discover a solution. The back and forth debate on how to destroy the phytosphere between the brothers could have easily become boring but Mackay keeps the story moving along by following Glenda and her children's harrowing tale of survival amidst chaos as society breaks down. Glenda's story really is the more compelling one until the end, and it creates some real tension and a sense urgency for one of the brother's to discover a solution.

Personally, I appreciated the hard science fiction elements along with the postapocalyptic tale. Mackay expertly wove the stories of the various characters together. The main characters were well developed and the suspense kept building right up to the end. (While I could get nit-picky over a few minor details, following my suggestions wouldn't have made the story any better.)
Highly Recommended


From his eighth-floor room in the Nectaris Buena Vista Hotel and Gambling Casino, Gerry Thorndike watched the shroud form over Earth. It moved with the slowness of a minute hand sweeping around a clock. opening

But the shroud persisted, and as he glanced toward the East Coast he saw, for the first time, an opposite edge, and understood that east would meet west, south would meet north; all the various blooms would join up, and darkness would entomb the Earth. pg. 5

"The Tarsalans unilaterally suspended immigration negotiations a couple weeks ago, and now they've gone and put this shroud around the Earth, and who knows when they're going to take it down?" pg. 10

"Wow," his voice suffused with soft and quavering reverence. "It's gotten a lot thicker overnight, hasn't it, Mom?" pg. 18-19

"But why bury food?"
"Because I don't want anybody coming into the house and stealing it."
"Why would they steal it?"
"Jake, how many times do I have to tell you? There are bad people in the world. And if bad people get desperate, they become extra bad. If this shroud lasts any length of time, everything's going to stop growing and food's going to run out. You think anything is going to grow with that thing in the sky? Plants need light to grow. Two weeks of total darkness, and that's it, there goes next year's crop." pg. 24-25

his wasn't like the regular and small disasters that befell people on a daily basis, making their lives miserable for a while, then finally drifting away like a bad dream. This was the Apocalypse. And she wanted food for when the Apocalypse finally came. pg. 25

Langstrom would have been a kindly old grandfather type if it weren't for something bitter in the eyes, and stingy about his lips. pg. 30

This particular brand of Armageddon, at least at first, was of a slow and creeping kind, but it was pernicious. pg. 85


Trisha said...

It would be nice to read an apocalyptic tale that is sci-fi rather than fantasy for a change. Thanks for the suggestion.

Lori L said...

You're welcome, Trisha!

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel when I read it. Nice review!