Review: Cry From a Silent Planet and Interview with Author John Rowland

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John Rowland’s ‘Cry from a Silent Planet’ has to be not only a realistic work of science fiction but also a plausible and wholly possible plot, why is it so plausible? Because the foundation of John’s book is based on fact, the places, the people, the science, mankind’s maleficent destruction of earth’s natural resources’ the utter greed of man to take until there is nothing left, And the power crazed struggle of nations competing to be the richest and matchless in their weaponry without regard for future generations nor the planet’s survival.

Furthermore, ‘A Cry from a Silent Planet,’ with its close resemblance to the here and now, leaves us with the unnerving thought that this could in some way become a reality, and poses the question, does the planet truly belong to us?

THE PLOT

john rowland book cover
John Rowland book cover, ‘Cry from a Silent Planet’

The planet Cryon is on a collision course to destruction, the inhabitants must find a new home, they choose Earth, that choice so far back in time shapes not only mankind’s future but its very existence.

Matt is an ordinary guy who takes a trip with his two children, the ultimate goal being to meet up with his wife to save their marriage. On their journey, Matt investigates a massive door embedded in the rock face, as he reaches out to the door he unwittingly becomes involved in a scenario that not only takes him on a journey to the Moon, but back to the day when Dinosaurs were wiped from the face of the planet.

Unlocking a secret older than man itself, Matt must make a choice that decides the future survival of the human race.

THE INTERVIEW

John’s love of astronomy began at an early age, when he would watch the night sky from his west facing bedroom with homemade telescopes that he designed himself. That love of astronomy and science grew, culminating in an amazing career that has encompassed being a physics teacher and lecturer, driving a trans-Siberian expedition, featuring on The Sky at Night with Sir Patrick Moore and whilst researching his book, spent several days inside NASA where he was not only given access to the latest equipment, but sat in on the meeting to determine if there was life on Mars. He has seen photos from the planet’s surface that no one had seen before, and as if that wasn’t enough, he interviewed astronauts including Apollo veteran John Young.

John also designed equipment that enabled total solar eclipse time-exposure photography to be achieved from on board ship.

John you have had a love of science from a very early age – how did you relate that love of science to this book?

“I have an unwavering belief in logic and the laws of physics. Once one departs from these, then all the rules fly out of the window and ‘anything goes’. In my short stories and this novel, the challenge has been to create gripping works of fiction that are based on real world facts and locations and sound scientific principles. Even the aliens and their technology are perfectly plausible”.

So the places in your book are real places, including the precise location on the Moon used in the book?

“Yes. On my research trip, this took me across the USA from the desolate Wyoming outback to the clamour of New York. I made sure I visited every place down to the smallest detail – except the Moon of course! At each location I was helped by experts in their field, such as seismologists, geologists, real cowboys, and even a National Guard general! It’s the detail I’ve woven into the plot that brings it to life, the action in the book takes place in locations that exist now, and can even be visited”.

Understandably you couldn’t go to the Moon, but the location and the spacecraft are still true in detail?

“I got as near as I could. I was invited to spend a few days at NASA in Houston. They let me search the photo archives, some of which hadn’t been seen by anyone before, and go into real space craft; I met engineers, flight directors and astronauts”

That whole experience must have been very exciting?

“Oh definitely, I wasn’t sure I would be permitted to visit let alone what I was allowed access to, but NASA were fantastic and felt as honoured to have me as I felt to be there, the whole experience was amazing”.

The plot is enthralling, how did you come up with the idea?

“There was a news item about a family that had lived in their home for generations, then comes a knock on the door, and a stranger claimed that the house was actually his, he could prove it, and he wanted them out. I thought, what if? What if we scaled up that shocking scenario so it applied to the whole planet?

What if we – humanity – discovered that we were not the first intelligent species to lay claim to planet Earth, and that another race of beings were here before us? And just because we have overrun our home planet, is that in itself justification for our claim to ‘own it’? Do we have absolute right of tenure”?

There are strong messages throughout the book on planetary growth and humanity’s greed in our treatment of Earth.

“Mankind has plundered Earth’s natural resources with seemingly no regard for the long term consequences for us or the other life forms on the planet. And with reference to the way we live and behave and what our priorities are, should we be asking the question, “Are we doing this right?” For instance, growth in all its aspects seems to be our God. Is this right?

Are we looking after it? Are we really thinking about its long-term future and the well-being of future generations, or are we only paying lip service to these important environmental issues and thinking only of now, and ourselves?

Humanity lives on a planetary island. Everything can’t just grow unchecked indefinitely. It’s illogical and ultimately impossible. A point is reached when growth must stop, and a steady state achieved and maintained. I believe that point was reached hundreds of years ago; we’re way past it now, and in deep doo-doo.”

So humanity has gone to excesses by way of industry and technology?

“Not quite, what I am saying is that rather than valuing possessions, fame and fortune, we should value “doing it right”, and I’m talking here in the moral sense”.

Tell us about the web site that people can go to and find about the science behind the book.

“There’s a lot of science, but covered in passing as it were, in a way that anyone can understand. What’s important is that apart from enjoying the book as a good story, anyone who wants to find out more can go to the web site. There you’ll find images of some of the locations, explanations of the existing science, the logic of the alien science, and links to a whole world of wonder. You can also ask questions or join discussion groups on the site.”

MORE INFO

You can buy a copy of A Cry from A Silent Planet as a paperback and epub.

The above site also allows you to read the first 76 pages of the book.

As kindle book

Fiona Hammond is a journalist who graduated from the John Morris journalism academy. Fiona lives on the south coast of NSW Australia and writes human interest stories and opinions, about gardening, sustainability, fishing, the environment and our planet.