In October of 2054 Astronomy Professor Aurora Bell makes a startling discovery. From deep space a very quickly moving object is headed toward the Earth. It initially travels at the speed of light but soon begins decelerating at a fantastic rate. It cannot be a natural object. It is also broadcasting the very enigmatic message "We're coming" once every sixty seconds. Is the Earth finally to be visited by beings from another planet? Or is it a very elaborate hoax?
Of course this news causes quite a stir among the people of Earth but the excitement quickly dies down leaving the various political and religious organizations to worry about the proper responses.
No matter who is coming, be it Jesus Christ or Darth Vader, people still have to live. For most of the people of Earth, it is business as usual:
Despite her newfound notoriety, Professor Bell must still deal with her fragile relationship with her music composer husband.
The high-tech porn star is saving her money for medical school and is worried about her physics grades.
The local gangsters look for a way to make an illicit profit.
The bag lady is probably not as crazy as she pretends, but she has a terrible secret.
The computer hacker/drug addict looks for his next fix.
The local politicians just want their city to remain standing a whileonger.
And there is the historian who watches everything and takes copious notes.
But what do those notes mean?
We witness the events of The Coming through the eyes of these characters and others, each with his own take on things. Each character is affected directly or indirectly by the approaching object. And none of them can do anything except continue on as best he can.
The Earth of 2054 is pretty much the same as it is now. There are many technological advances, such as intelligent, computer-controlled houses, automatic cars and better medical facilities. But fewer people can afford them. There are also the expected slow catastrophes such as global warming, which are endured as well as the dozens of never ceasing wars. The people live on this Earth because the have no where else to go. They live as best they can and adapt to any adversities. In the town of Gainesville, Florida, where most of The Coming takes place, people must deal with high temperatures and humidity and flooded land caused by the aforementioned global warming.
I was impressed with the apparent ease with which Haldeman wrote The Coming. He seemed to breeze right through this one, taking the people and locations from real life. (Is the Historian character in any way autobiographical?) There is only one false note, which I can't mention without giving away too much of the book. Everything else is very true to life.
Is The Coming Mr. Haldeman's best book? No, but Haldeman doesn't write bad books. There is nothing really innovative and Earth shattering here, but I enjoyed it and recommend it. My favorite Haldeman book is The Forever War, if anyone is interested.
Haldeman's book reminds me very much of Frederick Pohl's The Day the Martians Came. In that one Pohl chronicles the lives of various people, some of whom are directly involved in the space industry. For many people, the news that We Are Not Alone has no effect. Both books spend relatively little time on the science of the situation, preferring to focus on the human aspect.
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