Audible Studios, 2019, pages
In present day Los Angeles, the alien takeover has begun—but there’s no spaceship and no little green men. Rather, an epic conspiracy is slowly coming to fruition. Thousands of years ago, beings infiltrated our society, bred with humans, then died—leaving an untraceable, inexplicable anomaly in our DNA. Now that genetic code has activated, and chaos has erupted.
But private investigator Tom Lombard has his own chaos to face. His personal life is falling apart, and he just found his latest “missing person” dead in a dumpster. Suddenly he’s being chased by a woman with silver hair and two black-eyed goons with unnatural abilities. And what’s with all these people in masks—and the crazy girl ranting on the internet about the end of the world? Is humanity’s only hope a weird band of eccentrics and one down-on-his-luck, disgraced ex-cop badly in need of a win?
This was a weird, high-thrills alien invasion story that just became too weird and disjointed. Les Bohem is the screenwriter for Spielberg's series Taken, and the Hollywood feel is very much in evidence.
The first part of the book introduces us to our "hero," a dirty ex-cop whose career has gone to shit and whose personal life is a trainwreck. Tom Lombard isn't exactly a bad guy, he's just made some really bad life decisions. In the opening chapters, he's just been caught screwing the babysitter, leading his wife to leave him and take their tween daughter and teen son with her. With nothing better to do, Tom accepts a missing person case from one of his sleazier clients. The missing person turns out to be the daughter of a Chinese billionaire who was trying to go off-grid before she was caught by some Men In Black and their silver-haired woman leader. Lombard finds her body in a dumpster, and then things get weird.
The Thirteen Families are the 1% of the 1%. The masters of the universe, the leaders of the world, the richest and most elite of the elite. They're also getting pretty disgruntled about all the "New Money" that's moving in and cramping their style. Bohem shows us the Thirteen as being about as horrible and sociopathic as you'd expect people born into unlimited privilege to be, dialed up to 11. It's very much a Hollywood version of the super-rich (which is not to say that Saudi Princes and industrialist scions aren't really this bad). But there is one daughter of one of the families who is a mentally ill genius who's been shut up in her very lavishly furnished room for years because she started ranting about how the drive to turn the entire human race into consumerist automatons is actually a long-range scheme by powers higher than themselves. Of course, she turns out to be right.
The second part of the book is when the "Bloom" happens. Worldwide, a slice of the population gains crystalline black eyes and telepathic powers, and loses all conscience and humanity. "The Pluses" become the new ruling class overnight. They are superhuman, they can read your mind and control your thoughts, and they're utterly, mercilessly sadistic tyrants. They let society continue on much as it has been in some respects, except that Pluses control everything and can do anything they want at any time to a non-Plus for any reason, and they do. There are a lot of gory descriptions of Plus sadism and terrorization of the remaining human population.
Pluses are actually the result of alien DNA that was seeded in humanity thousands of years ago. They are a sort of parasite that will mutate humanity, spread, and then... Well, this is one of the places where the book kind of lost me. They kill the "host" (humanity) and move on. Move on where? They don't have spaceships! At least Invasion of the Body Snatchers presented the pod people as (very implausibly) flying back into space under their own power when their invasion failed. I could not figure out what the long-term survival strategy of the species that planted "junk" DNA in humans was.
But anyway, the world is now ruled by alien sadists in human skins, the Thirteen Families have become merely the most privileged of their bootlickers, and Tom Lombard has teamed up with his teenage son, the daughter of one of the Thirteen Families, and a trio of witches to fight the Pluses.
Witches? Yes. With magic. In the last half of the book, the story goes off the rails as we learn of an ancient society of witches created to save mankind from the Pluses. The climax involves a global music broadcast. Yes, really.
As climactic Hollywood plots goes, it's decent enough. Would probably make a good B-movie. But as a science fiction novel, I'll avoid the obvious pun, but Junk is, well, a bit lacking. It's a horror/SF adventure that cooks along at a screenplay's pace, but I think Les Bohem is perhaps a better screenwriter than a novelist.
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