When scientists calculate that a comet will impact Earth, chaos reigns, but the worst is yet to come in Kenneth Johnson’s sci-fi thriller, “The Darwin Variant.”
The vast cast of characters ranges from scientists to high-school students, and all of them have a stake in the world-changing possibilities if the celestial body strikes Earth. Each character tells his or her individual story, providing depth in all of the players in this scenario.
When calculations and some high-tech weaponry provide a solution to the dilemma, the world cheers as the comet breaks up. Except for some small pieces, the damage is visibly minimal. Unfortunately, a mysterious virus was encased inside the cold ice, and when this strange life form encounters the Earth’s atmosphere, it thrives. A young high-school couple is the first to discover the strange substance. They become aggressive and ruthless at the expense of others. Soon animals start exhibiting signs of excessive violence, and plants exposed to this virus are invaded and overrun by a new genetic code. It quickly moves past isolation, and if the slow permutation isn’t stopped, everyone will become infected.
Johnson takes the scenario of fear of collision with a rogue object from space and turns it on its head by making things worse after everything seems resolved. This approach turns the narrative into a contemporary version of the paranoid classic film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and a dose of the propaganda film from World War II “Triumph of the Will” by alluding to the seeds of a new master race. Fans of Johnson will also see echoes of “V,” his television show from the 1980s.
Johnson has written another engaging novel.