Review of The Prometheus Project by Steve White


This science fiction alternative history adventure has a really classic feel to it, starting as it does in the 1960’s, with Bob Devaney as a typically alpha-male ‘muscle for hire’ narrating the tale – and what a tale…

Bob Devaney was a Special Forces soldier in the early 1960’s – until a certain traumatic event, which he refused to discuss even with his superiors, caused him to leave the Army and set up his own security and investigative agency, employing only him.
Hired by a secret government agency to do undercover work, he was escorting a mysterious woman named Novak to the White House when they were ambushed by gunmen. Novak used a device that worked like an invisibility field to make an impossible escape – and then knocked Devaney out with some kind of ray gun. When he woke up, he realized that Novak was about to kill him for knowing too much – but suddenly she received a message: Devaney was to be recruited for something called the Prometheus Project.

prometheusprojectThe Project turned out to be the largest disinformation operation in history, targeted at the aliens who ruled the galaxy. A man named Inconnu had arrived in a damaged but highly advanced craft in the 1940’s claiming that he had escaped from a group of humans whom aliens had been studying, and it turned out that unless the Earth could convince the aliens that the planet had a unified government, and was armed with technology comparable to that of the galactic rulers, the Earth would be exploited as a primitive protectorate.

And there you have it – off we go on a roller-coaster adventure that had me reading into the small hours to find out what happens. An adventure that includes kidnapping, power politics with aliens and a really cool twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. White writes well – this could have so easily have descended into some clichéd retread, but instead bounces along with engaging gusto and freshness, aided by the first person narration of Devaney, reminding me all over again just WHY I love this genre so much…
It’s a big ask to write convincingly about first encounters with aliens. For starters, they have to appear different enough that the reader is convinced they could have evolved on another planet – or if they are similar, provide a solid reason for it. And the protagonists have to appear sufficiently awestruck, without holding up the narrative pace while they boggle over the enormity of their discovery. Add to that the fact that those of us who enjoy the genre will have read this scenario at least a dozen times before – and you begin to see why most modern science fiction writers tend to avoid this plotline. However, I think that White manages to pull it off extremely well – I particularly liked his explanation that the Space Race to the Moon was deliberately poorly handled, leading to its abandonment, so that NASA wouldn’t accidentally encounter the Project’s base on the dark side of the Moon…

Any grizzles? Well the one minor detail that jarred was that Chloe, Devaney’s love interest, refused to get up close and personal with him for fear of becoming pregnant. I found it difficult to believe that in the 1960’s any female sent on a long-term mission to another world wouldn’t have been automatically provided with some kind of birth control – after all, a form of the Pill had been invented in the 1950’s. It is a picky point, but in a book where I felt the world was constructed with care and attention to detail, this was the one bit that didn’t work.

Other than that, I heartily recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction – for some of us it’ll be a misty-eyed trip down Memory Lane, reminding us all over again why we fell headlong for the genre. For the less aged among you, this gives a flavour of a time when we were all bombarded with news reports of flying saucers – when many of us truly believed that in the next decade or so, we’d be out among the stars encountering these beings for real… Heigh ho

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