Scales by Anthony G Williams

A review of Scales by Anthony G. Williams
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher Authors OnLine
ISBN-10: 075520266X
ISBN-13: 978-0755202669

A major delight for me in science fiction is when one attribute of a common feature is changed and we explore the logical ramifications. A good example is in Death of Grass (1956) Samuel Youd, in which the title says it all. Any brain storming session would come up with what ifs such as gravity acting sideways; water won’t freeze; or if you wake up with abnormal superpowers. The last kind of happens in Scales, and what an intriguing hook for a novel it is.

After an explosion in Matthew Johnson’s home, the result of which puts him into a six-month coma, the main character discovers that his skin has morphed into lizard-like scales with chameleon ability to change colour with changing emotions. Another new feature when he recovers is ESP ability. He finds he can tune into people’s nervous system and even change them to heal many medical problems. He can also create pain and twist minds at a distance. This is enhanced when the truth behind his uniqueness is discovered. The revelation involves parallel universes in which other Earths exist. They followed different paths of development at key moments in history such as extinction events. Although we know little about his pre-accident life, Matthew Johnson feels he has changed too much to use his old name and now uses Cade, his middle name to help him and others cope with his changing identity.

The first person narrative is strong because the protagonist, Cade, has a fully developed character in which he has definite opinions on the environment, social and political issues that beset our world today. He also has ideas on how to resolve those issues and is not slow to see how contact with the parallel, different multiverse Earth, with their superior technology and quasi-telepathic abilities could and must be used to rescue his home planet. His new ‘other dimension’ friends are too naïve in their trust in communicating with other Earths but Cade is able to demonstrate how, sadly, it is necessary to use force to defend a way of life.

Cade isn’t the only character that is well-crafted in Scales. He has women friends, and secret service type contacts that come over well. A good touch is his brother, who initially is quite different in character to Cade, but as the novel unfolds the points of common interest intersect more. There is a lot of information imparted in this novel. This is to be expected as it like a manual of what to do to avoid an eco-disaster on this planet in the context of a very readable novel. Cade too felt that he’d become a kind of tool to rescue humans and a well-written passage has him saying that he had ‘become a package, a commodity.’ This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t enjoy his function and the reader can feel engaged with his exuberance of his discoveries, even though some are desperately dangerous.

For any reader thirsting for another take on what might have happened to our planet if the asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs 65 million years ago, missed the Earth, then Scales will give them an enjoyable read and nourish geopolitical alternatives.

Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
Co-editor of Escape Velocity: magazine of science fact and fiction.