Walter Mosley is a crime writer who occasionally goes slumming in SF. His best-known novel might be Devil in a Blue Dress, which was turned into a Denzel Washington movie. People seem to have liked his two previous SF efforts, Blue Light and Futureland. I can only hope this means that those books are far, far superior to this drivel, which, at my most charitable, I would be willing to describe as clichéd hokum. The less charitable side of me would use less charitable adjectives. But I pride myself on my civil demeanor and restraint here. Don't I? Oh, wait, you've read some of my John Ringo reviews.
The Wave is not about college football, but is instead the umpteenth variant of the age-old Body Snatchers scenario. Here, though, the takeover is meant to be seen as benign. Did I say benign? Hell, it's God. And before folks smile to themselves and think, "Ah well, there's Wagner going off on religion again," allow me to point out that even the most devout believer in the globe might laugh heartily at the idea that humanity's salvation will come to us in the form of an amoeba with tentacles floating in black slime. The Wave reads like a goofy new-agey take on The X-Files (the whole black oil thing), cobbled together into the kind of Sci Fi Channel pilot that inevitably leads to the humiliation and firing of some hapless junior executive. People like this writer? Whatever.
Errol Porter is a young L.A. computer programmer and potter, whose slow attempts at picking up the pieces of his life in the wake of a failed marriage and flagging career are thrown off the rails by late night phone calls from someone claiming to be his long-dead father. Errol visits his father's grave, where he meets a man younger than he is who behaves somewhat manically. Because the plot requires him to, Errol takes this character home, where further meetings — with his sister and mother — shore up evidence that "GT" (so called because he promises "good times" are coming) may well be his resurrected and rejuvenated father. But GT doesn't exactly claim to be Errol's father, only a reconstruction of his father's memory, or words to that effect. He also claims to be part of something called the Wave. Errol interprets that to be a cult. We will, of course, find out it is much much more.
This premise is not unintriguing, especially if you're willing to allow whopping great plot holes slide. How did "GT" know Errol's phone number — a question another character even asks, for which no answer is given. As he later admits to Errol he can't recall how to read yet, how did he know how to dial it? But just as it's revving up, the plot changes lanes abruptly and takes the exit to Silly Street, by way of Cliché Causeway. Shortly after GT takes a powder one morning, Errol is immediately set upon by Evil Government Thugs™, who are in the employ of a Mad Scientist™ so arch even Stan Lee would laugh himself into a hernia. Our Mad S, name of Wheeler, isn't even one-dimensional. Is it possible for a character to be five-eighths dimensional, or one-third?
Wheeler has somehow managed to abduct, in addition to Errol, dozens of people from around the world to give them a tour of his supersecret underground government lab. This is the sort of place you always see in bad SF. I wonder how mad scientists pitch these places to appropriations committees. Wheeler reveals that lots of dead people have been coming back. What's more, they're practically invulnerable, able to rejuvenate severed limbs in seconds, and capable of living in environments that would kill you and I. Of course, this is seen by Wheeler as a threat to all humanity that must be wiped out, because — and this will be on the test, students — Man Fears and Destroys What He Does Not Understand.
Errol is kept captive at Wheeler's own heavily guarded house. Wheeler is fascinated because GT, in the youthened body of Errol's father, is the first of these creatures to actually make contact with a human family member. But soon Errol learns that traces of the alien organism have been found in his blood, and that Wheeler has added him to his "must be wiped out" rota. Fortunately, Captain Author's Convenience pops by for a quick rescue. Wheeler just happens to have a lonely and inexhaustably horny wife who's been banging Errol silly while hubby's at the lab doing evil government stuff. (Interesting mad scientist behavior: bring a man you suspect of being infected by aliens home to live with you, leave him alone with the frustrated spouse. This guy's not exactly in the running for a Nobel here.) So she smuggles Errol out, where a Race Against Time™ to save the Wave (save the Wave!) begins.
This is all deeply hilarious, if not in a good way. But there are times when it has a Roger Corman sort of entertainment value. I mean, Mosley could have sold the concept a little more successfully had he done anything to depict life under the benign tutelage of the Wave as substantially more appealing and preferable to our own. But he doesn't even do this. Sure, growing new limbs and not dying of natural causes seem like plusses. One wonders exactly why it never occurs to Wheeler that these would in fact be plusses. Mosley just lazily lapses into the hackneyed theme of "we kill what we fear," which I'd suggest got its most succinct summing up several decades ago in the speech by Doctor Zaius to Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes. It's now so far past its sell-by date it's fossilized. How about a story featuring this kind of alien symbiont that the government sees as something to harness and exploit, rather than destroy? Imagine the Supersoldier. Blow off his limbs and he keeps on fighting. But the symbiont itself believes in peace, and must be protected by — oh, I don't know — a small boy and his puppy? Maybe there's nothing worthwhile to be done with the whole premise after all. It may just be time to hang this one up. That happens in genre fiction sometimes. The thing is, dilletante writers who only dabble in a genre part-time don't often know how behindhand they are in what's au courant.
At barely over 200 quick pages, even average readers will have no trouble polishing the whole thing off in three hours or so. But then, one starts drawing up lists of other things one can be spending those three hours doing, and The Wave gradually ebbs out to sea.