Picks and Pans Review: Nature's End

updated 05/26/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/26/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka

The authors are well on their way to establishing their own Armageddon Book Club by following their hit first novel, Warday, with this tale of cataclysmic pollution and erosion in the 21st century. Although filled with excerpts from contemporary news reports and scientific research—an ominous paragraph on acid rain from the New York Times here, a warning on nitrogen excess in the air from Science News there—it is more impressive as sci-fi adventure than as serious fiction. The plot centers on an India-based demagogue called Gupta Singh whose solution for the world's environmental problems is to kill at random one third of the global population. When a team of American journalists tries to expose Singh as a maniac rather than a savior, terrible things start to happen, beginning with that most dreaded of problems to U.S. citizens: the voiding of their credit cards. Also involved is a mythical community inhabited by children whose intelligence has been genetically manipulated to superhuman levels. In their ability to keep the action percolating, and by their odd way of combining scientific cynicism with wild romanticism, Strieber and Kunetka recall the esteemed science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein. They seem much more naive though; Singh's rise to power, for instance, doesn't sound credible. The authors lack Heinlein's ironic edge as well. Still there are enough plot twists and absorbing questions to sustain the reader's interest. If Strieber and Kunetka don't really convince anyone that Denver, say, will be uninhabitable in 35 years, they at least should help reduce pollution by keeping a lot of people in their favorite reading chair and out of their cars. (Warner Books, $17.95)

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