3 out of 4 stars
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Irreversible climate change and chaotic government policies have thrown the Earth on a self-destructive path. Unless something happens, humanity is headed for disaster. In 2047, the situation changes drastically with the arrival of a thousand alien ships positioned strategically all over the globe. An equally friendly and threatening alien by the name of Charlie dramatically interrupts the annual UN meeting with an explosive announcement. He is the representative of a Continuum of planets deeply concerned about the fate of the Earth in the next few years.
In the name of the aliens, Charlie puts forward a ten-year plan drawn up for the salvation and reconstruction of the Earth. If humanity refuses to comply with the aliens’ demands, the alternative is total extermination at the end of the deadline. Sylvia Han-Chin, the President of the United States, and Ben Williamson, the Secretary of State, have trouble believing people can change their way of life on such short notice. However, Sylvia’s plan to contact Amos Richardson, a paid assassin, has little chance of succeeding because of the aliens’ indestructibility. When it turns out that the aliens have a hidden agenda, things get even more complicated.
Ultimatum by John Andersen is a sci-fi novel serving as a warning against the threat of climate change and the unequal distribution of power and resources. The author does a great job of portraying a utopian human society rebuilt on the principles of cooperation, equality, and tolerance. The story flows smoothly and follows the changes affecting human society during each of the ten years. The symmetrical structure of the novel includes a revelatory prologue and an explanatory epilogue. The sections dedicated to each year are also orderly divided into three parts and rely on a significant element in the plot development. Readers who like clear-cut endings will be pleased to know that the epilogue provides a satisfactory conclusion to the story. However, there is still room for a sequel.
Without a doubt, John Andersen writes a thought-provoking novel. I loved the pages of sharp criticism and biting satire against the absurdity of human behavior. On the same wavelength, the book raises people’s awareness of the long-term consequences of total disrespect for both the environment and human rights. When it comes to the problems humanity faces, Andersen leaves no stone unturned. He tackles a wide range of issues: the deadly effect of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons; the growing number of murders and other crimes; the threat of climate change and pollution; the deterioration of human health; the lack of food and water for the starving people in different parts of the world; the devastating impact of war and territorial expansion; the misinterpretation of religion and religious dogmas, and the unfairness of gender and racial discrimination. The solutions provided in the novel might sound unrealistic, but they are a wake-up call for all of us.
As for the characters, Charlie, Sylvia, and Amos stand out from the crowd. I couldn’t help but admire Charlie’s self-confidence, Sylvia’s determination, and Amos’s detachment. Many episodic characters reflect the diversity of people’s reactions to the aliens’ arrival. Every new year affects people’s lives more and more. Tommy Hernandez, Mohammad Abadi (Mo), or Steven Garrison see the aliens’ arrival as a blessing. Richard Adams, Alan Jamison, and Chaffee “Bull” Browning are not so pleased with all the changes. My only complaint is that the characters are not full-fledged. I wish the author had focused on fewer characters and endowed them with more depth and complexity. Along the same lines, the sci-fi elements of the book could have been further explored.
On the whole, I warmly recommend Ultimatum by John Andersen to all readers of sci-fi novels with a penchant for utopias. It includes non-offensive profane words, no violent scenes, and non-explicit sexual scenes. In 252 pages, I have only noticed 23 editing errors. They consist of minor punctuation and grammar mistakes like wrong articles or missing prepositions. For this reason alone, I am giving John Andersen’s novel 3 out of 4 stars. Otherwise, its strengths outweigh its weaknesses. I cannot wait to read other sci-fi books written by this author in the future.
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