Fictional prose is usually divided into four categories that depend mostly on the number of words: the short story, which generally tops out at 7,500 words; the novelette at roughly 7,500-17,000 words; the novella, ranging from 17,000 to 40,000 words; and the novel at 40,000 and up. The reason this is important in discussing John B. Fuller’s science fiction book is that, at approximately 12,000 words, The Alien Prophet is a short novelette that wants to be a novel…or even several novels.
Fuller’s story takes place over hundreds of years beginning in the present time. The settings are divided among a big-city high rise, a picnic area, a beach planet, a dome in the desert, Area 51, British Columbia and several alternate universes. James, the protagonist, lives, dies and lives again, as he becomes a world leader, a pirate, a recluse, a prophet and an expatriate. All the while, Earth is attacked by various alien invaders, and the population is decimated from 11 billion to 146,000 survivors who settle another planet and forget how they got there.
Surprisingly, there are no “spoilers” in the previous paragraph, as the entire plot, including the conclusion, is summarized on the back cover. Readers looking for surprises are bound to be disappointed.
What Fuller has done here is to combine myriad science fiction tropes, each of which could be made into their own novels. This leaves too few pages for character development, effective world building and so on. His well-worn plot ideas are also a hindrance, as sadly, none of the plot elements, from Area 51 to the dome to the alien invasions, are unique or approached in an original way. (For similar ideas, consider H.G. Wells’ famous alien-invasion story, War of the Worlds; Stephen King’s Under the Dome and Robert Heinlein’s alien-prophet novel Stranger in a Strange Land).
In sum, the book would require a thoughtful reimagining in order to build an audience.
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