The Wave by Walter Mosley (Science Fiction Novel, 2006)
Best known for the Easy Rawlins detective novels (beginning with the outstanding Devil in a Blue Dress), Walter Mosley has also put out several science fiction books. The Wave is the third such and capably incorporates what is more typically a horror-oriented theme (the reanimated dead rising) in a surprisingly moving and non-horrific way.
Mosley’s main character, Errol Porter, is slowly putting his life back together after being left by his wife. He’s just beginning a tentative but promising relationship with a co-worker when he starts receiving unsettling late night calls from a man claiming to be his late father. Porter assumes the caller is insane (or at least a cruel hoaxer) and yet something about it leads him to investigate the cemetery where his Dad was buried. He finds a confused, naked man who looks just like his father as a young man–and whose mannerisms and way of speaking are like Errol remembers. Plus this ‘reborn’ and youthful version of his father knows all manner of intimate details about family life and history.
Slowly, he begins to believe that–somehow–his father is back, in one form or another.
A top-secret wing of Homeland Security, led by Dr. Wheeler, a paranoid army doctor-turned-mad-scientist (for want of a better term) intervenes and Errol learns that the dead are indeed being brought back to a sort of life by a unique life-form native to the very depths of the Earth itself. A single, collective consciousness made up of billions of cells, this almost liquid entity is The Wave and parts of it can enter the dead and revive them, enabling the entity to move about the surface and interact with others.
The military’s 1st thought is INVASION (maybe they’ve seen too many zombie movies) and they’re hellbent on finding a way of destroying this strange life-form. But despite the creepy notion of using the dead to make contact, The Wave hasn’t been proven a threat. From interacting with the part of it that has blended with his Dad, Errol doubts it’s malevolent–and besides, after watching his Dad suffer and die of illness once, he isn’t about to help destroy this new version of him.
An exciting tale of escape and on-the-run-adventure follows. The true and spiritually intriguing purpose of The Wave’s actions are eventually revealed. But Wheeler and his kind have no desire to understand. To them, The Wave must be exterminated–along with anyone who sides with it.
I won’t go into spoiler-heavy details, but I felt Mosley brought the book to a mostly satisfying and appropriate conclusion. It’s not one of the greatest contact with alien life novels ever, but it is a solidly written and heartfelt piece of work, with plenty of good action and thought-provoking ideas, including a central conceit that is quite original.
In conclusion: I did like and enjoy this book; I didn’t quite love it. But who can expect every book one picks up to be resounding perfection–damned good is often good enough, and this one is that.