Book Review: Fade Out by Patrick Tilley

Book number 20 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 1 of operation summer holiday) was Fade Out by Patrick Tilley.

So I started my holiday with an old school sci-fi novel.  I wish I could tell you where I heard about this book – I know that I read about it on a blog somewhere, but it’s one of those books that I downloaded and then promptly forgot about.

‘Aliens have landed on this earth, and it is time for the human race to prepare itself. When an unidentified object of extra-terrestrial origins arrives on Earth, creating havoc and panic the world over, the question of whether we are alone in the universe is finally answered. But this realisation is only the beginning, for the object brings with it a whole host of questions that neither the world’s governments or military experts are equipped to answer. Is it a danger to humanity, or an innocent explorative device? Focusing on mankind’s reaction to this mysterious object, Tilley illustrates how ignorance can drive civilisation towards the brink of a devastating breakdown.

Fade-Out, a sci-fi novel first published in 1975, looks at the meltdown of society in the face of alien invasion.’ (thanks Amazon!)

The book loosely follows Bob Connors, Special Assistant to the President of the United States of America as he leads a top secret project looking at the reasons for a global ‘fade out’.  This fade out cripples global communications, leaving nations feeling vulnerable to nuclear war as the world loses the ability to track potential enemies.

As we follow Connors through this project, we learn more about him as a character, as his history influences his present.  In addition to character relationships, we also experience the relationship between science and the military.  Whilst this book was published over 40 years ago, these relationships are, I believe, still relevant today.  This is a science fiction novel, but there is very little in it that isn’t believable.  If the scenario in this novel were to happen, you believe that the same hopes and fears would be applicable, along with the same differences of opinion over the way forward.  The novel also highlights aspects of the Presidents role that I had never previously considered.  Firstly, that it can be quite superficial (with a dosage of manipulation thrown in for good measure).  Dinner with the Bodell’s is a great example of this.  In contrast to this, the novel also highlights just how powerful his position really is, as he makes decisions about what his people should and shouldn’t know about the top secret project, thereby controlling widespread panic, but also removing people’s choice when it comes to protecting themselves if necessary.

I am not your typical science fiction reader (although I do love a science fiction movie).  However I’m glad I put aside my reservations about reading a 40 year old science fiction novel.  It’s well worth a read, so give it a go.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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