Title: Dahlia Black
Author: Keith Thomas
Voyager 1 was a message in a bottle. Our way of letting the galaxy know we existed. That we were out here if anyone wanted to find us.
Over the next forty years, the probe flew past Jupiter and Saturn before it drifted into the void, swallowed up by a silent universe. Or so we thought…
Truth is, our message didn’t go unheard.
Discovered by Dr. Dahlia Black, the mysterious Pulse was sent by a highly intelligent intergalactic species that called themselves the Ascendants. It soon becomes clear this alien race isn’t just interested in communication—they are capable of rewriting human DNA, in an astonishing process they call the Elevation.
Five years after the Pulse, acclaimed journalist Keith Thomas sets out to make sense of the event that altered the world. Thomas travels across the country to interview members of the task force who grappled to decode the Pulse and later disseminated its exact nature to worried citizens. He interviews the astronomers who initially doubted Black’s discovery of the Pulse—an error that critics say led to the world’s quick demise. Thomas also hears from witnesses of the Elevation and people whose loved ones vanished in the Finality, an event that, to this day, continues to puzzle Pulse researchers, even though theories abound about the Ascendants’ motivation.
Including never-before-published transcripts from task force meetings, diary entries from Black, and candid interviews with Ballard, Thomas also shows in Dahlia Black how a select few led their country in its darkest hours, toward a new level of humanity.
I’m not usually one for hard sci-fi, but this book sounded pretty intriguing, so I gave it a go. Now I’ve discovered a whole new story-telling style that I really love. I thought this would be the type of book that drags on forever, that I’d pick up and put down, a slow read. Quite the contrary, I found myself devouring it, completely immersed as if I’d actually lived through the events.
The story itself is told in the form of diary entries, transcripts, and interviews. It made for a quick read, since there wasn’t any text really dedicated to world building/description that wasn’t just natural conversation or internal dialog. The diary entries made the main character – Dahlia – super relatable, as we were privy to her thoughts and emotions as she went through Elevation. It gave the overall story the personal touch that kept me turning pages, wanting to know exactly what happened to her next.
I think part of why it was so immersive, too, was because the book is composed in a way that sort of assumes the reader actually did live through its events (there’s even a fake bibliography for references at the end!). And even though it reads that way, at no point was I confused about what was happening, because the natural progression of the book gave just enough information to keep me in the loop, while also making it feel like I was discovering the events as I went. And though there were points where the author obviously needed to recap or spoon-feed information, it never felt unnatural or like info-dumps. This book is an excellent example of the author trusting the reader and skillfully weaving the world-building in an informational but not dry way.
I didn’t expect this to be a new favorite, but here we are!