Decipher - a speculative science fiction thriller

  • Posted on: 12 February 2021
  • By: Sevhina

The planet would survive but humankind was probably doomed. There was indeed a solution but it couldn't be finished in time to save civilization. So they built what they could and left artificial intelligence to finish the job in the hope that any survivors would need it in the future. Assuming that their descendants would have the scientific knowledge to make use of their creation there was still the problem of how language would change over 12,000 years. They built Atlantis, left a code, and hoped for the best. Now a small group of scientists has less than a week to crack it. They will need to venture under the ice of Antarctica in the middle of a war, escape nanoswarm lifeforms that would prefer humans die out, and crack the code that might explain how to use a machine beyond their science.

The Chinese have established a new base in Antarctica and satellite imagery is detecting a massive power source. The United States threatens to go to war if they don't allow inspections or shut it down. Weather is acting up all around the globe. Dr. Richard Scott is shown an example of pre-cuneiformic writing that simply shouldn't exist and it's the challenge of a lifetime for an anthropological linguist. According to the brilliant physicist Jon Hackett that might be an extremely short lifetime because something is happening with the Sun. Corporate geologist Sarah is shown a chunk of carbon 60 that came from an oil drill in Antarctica. C60 has only been produced in tiny amounts but this is a piece of several kg and it's covered in strange symbols. Bob Pearce belongs to a division of the CIA so secret no one has ever heard of it, but in his mind he has explored an illegal Chinese base and below it found the city once described by Plato named Atlantis.

Decipher is science fiction with an emphasis on both the science and the fiction. There is both accepted and theoretical physics regarding our sun based on the eleven year cycle that creates effects like El Nino. Throw in geology, a few archeological mysteries, anthropomorphic oddities, religion, and stir it all together with an urgent timeline. Don't forget corporate greed and military paranoia. The result is a race against time thriller that paces itself with scientific and mythological facts as well as a few conspiracy theories. It is an engrossing dive into "what if" that takes inspiration from both Stargate and the book of Revelations.

It's a well written end of world thriller but the primary flaw here is the lack of character development or world building. There are also a couple of narrative detours that don't appear to advance the overall plot. If they added to our understanding of the characters or some profound aspect of the world building it would make sense, but they don't. One positive aspect of the book is the emphasis on similar themes that tie out across many world religions. 

Sadly, Decipher is not available on Audiobook but is in traditional paperback and eBook. Wikipedia's information on Pavlou links Decipher to the website which is dedicated to Atlantis.