Hard Science Fiction Book Reviews of 'The Future Happens Twice'

Apex Reviews - New York (October 4, 2007)

Frozen embryos, Extinction Level Events (ELE), androids raising babies, spaceships traveling for thousands of years - it may sound like a B-Movie of the Ed Wood variety, but, in truth, the premise is more plausible than one may think, and Matt Browne proves just that.

The Future Happens Twice: The Perennial Project tracks the efforts of a species under siege - and the enemy is one that its members can't readily combat. The very real and growing threat of an ELE (a ruinous, catastrophic disaster) forces the global leadership of Earth to devise ways to preserve the existence of humanity, ensuring its propagation for posterity. The problem, though, is that if Earth's habitable environment is destroyed or severely damaged by the ELE, there will be no viable place for those remaining to survive.

Hope comes in the discovery of a distant Earth-like planet, but the only problem is that the planet is dozens of light years away. As science, per Albert Einstein, has proven, there is no possible way that life can survive a journey that long...or is there?

A top-secret project launched at the behest of the American government has devised a way for just such a journey to transpire - but it involves some of the gravest ethical breaches ever known to man, and its highly experimental nature leaves too many questions unanswered. With time quickly working against the human race, the project's handlers must scramble if the species is to avoid joining the dinosaur in the annals of history.

Matt Browne has crafted a smart, engaging tale that highlights the proverbial Doomsday Scenario in stunningly personal detail. Given the technological bent of his chosen subject matter, one may think that his writing would be stilted or difficult to understand, but his storytelling is both straightforward and informative, leaving the reader with a greater appreciation of just how important a role science plays in our everyday lives - as well as our (possible) future.

Though it comes in at just over 700 pages, Browne's narrative reads fast and easy and whets your appetite just enough to crave the second and third parts of this exciting trilogy. Like Tolkien, Crichton, and Octavia Butler before him, Browne's compelling prose will convert you into a Sci-Fi fan without your even realizing it. The best is yet to come from this impressive new literary talent.

Heartland Reviews Leavenworth, KS - Bob Spear (October 19, 2007)

This science fiction tour de force takes place later in this century. If you have missed reading works by Clarke or Asimov, relief is on the way. A super-secret government agency has been given the responsibility of saving mankind by sending a starship to a planet 42,000 years away with 5,000 frozen embryos, 2 androids, and a crew of four children who are artificially born 18 years before the landing, raised and trained by the androids. This seems straight forward enough; however, its complexity is greatly increased by the moral questions of cloning and lying to test subjects.

This 720-page tome will be followed by two more editions which will follow mankind's survival across eons and light years. We rated it four hearts.

Revish Reviews, United Kingdom - Dan Champion (October 29, 2007)

Stem cell research, cloning, test tube babies, and frozen embryos are controversial issues we all hear about. Matt Browne has woven these issues into a cleverly crafted science fiction novel that will grab anyone's interest. Starting with scientific and medical concepts we all understand today, Browne carries the reader through more concepts that are speculative, but still widely discussed, and then takes the reader on a journey the reader will never forget.

"The Future Happens Twice" is Brown's first novel. One wouldn't think so. His choice of words is polished, and his characters are well rounded. Much of the characterization is done through dialogue, which, in Browne's hands, is very effective. Browne adds depth to one character, a superbly qualified scientist, simply by having another character, already characterized as having good taste in clothes, notice that the scientist has different colored shoelaces in his shoes.

This is the kind of book that should be read as the plot flows. Peeking ahead to see what happens later will spoil the reader's enjoyment because Browne's story line takes many surprising twists and turns, some very unexpected, as the characters try to come to terms with what they find themselves immersed in. Also Browne's impressive understanding of cutting-edge science keeps you wondering "Could this really happen?"

Ronyo Greffin discovers that he looks like exactly like a much older man once looked when the older man was Ronyo's age. Debyra Handsen accepts employment at a top-secret military research center and later wonders what she got herself into. So begins this fascinating novel, more mystery thriller than science fiction. "The Future Happens Twice" will intrigue everyone, even those who don't normally read science fiction. Things widely discussed today: cloning, frozen embryos, astronomy, space exploration, crimes committed by governments, private investigation to identify those responsible: all of these are cleverly woven into this story.

"The Future Happens Twice" has a solid plot. It touches on controversial topics everyone is aware of, and it will keep you guessing all the way to the end of the novel.

Bewildering Stories - Danielle Parker (December 4, 2007)

Does anyone remember the October 1972 crash of Flight 571 in the Andes? Twenty-six of forty-five people on board survived to face high-altitude cold and starvation. Rescue did not come until late December. The survivors ate the bodies of their dead colleagues to stay alive. The Catholic Church officially forgave them, and many of the survivors went on to write or inspire book and movie versions of their horrific experience. All's well that ends well, I guess. Now, however, the question: would you have done the same to stay alive? Was survival worth becoming, as the elderly cannibal mariner of "The Yarn of the Nancy Bell" sings, "Oh I am a cook and a captain bold, And the mate of the Nancy Brig, and a bosun tight, and a midshipmite, and the crew of the captain's gig"? Just how far would you be willing to comprise your personal standards – I'll assume for the sake of argument that we're all against cannibalism – to stay alive?

Now let's turn that question around a bit. We're all against torture, too, but when the security of the nation is invoked, do we put aside our personal scruples and support the return of the Iron Maiden, the rack, and the hot tongs? Just where do we draw the line between the evils we won't touch, "ever", and those deeds whose end justifies? That question kept me reading the 700+ pages of 'The Future Happens Twice'. Debrya Handsen is a linguist who finds herself pitched into a super-secret project. This super-secret project is up to some super-dirty deeds in the name of the salvation of the species (genus Americanus, anyway. Others don't get much of a mention here). Ms. Handsen discovers that her new employers, The Perennial Project, are carrying out unethical experiments on human twins. It doesn't sound nice. Fortunately, none of the twins actually face death in the Perennial Project. Still, Ms. Handsen is faced with that same vexing question. Should she bite her lip, accept her higher wage, bask in her scientific accolades, and condone experiments on unknowing, innocent subjects? In her doubt, she conducts many silent and anguished conversations with a father confessor figure, the Reverend Zaulder. Her employer gives out tantalizing hints that the Perennial Project's race-to-the-stars work will save the human race (a eugenically selected tiny elite) from some near-term global disaster. Is that enough to justify her dirty hands?

The pressure rises when former subjects of the same experiment start rooting around for answers and threaten to blow the lid off the dirty laundry hamper. Does she keep going? What wins – Ms. Handsen's sympathy for the unwitting victims, or that new purple car she has her eye on? You'll have to read it to find out. Mr. Browne is an idea man, an approach with a long and honorable tradition in speculative fiction. It's unfortunate he didn't have a more ruthless editor for his first novel. I hope Mr. Browne finds that sharp-toothed, snarling editorial Doberman. He needs the tough love. Still, I'll keep an eye out for the further adventures of the suffering twins. Carry on, Mr. Browne!

Swamy Reviews, India - Swamy Swarna (December 21, 2007)

The earth is in danger and the human species may not survive the danger. So, a project is conceived to send humans to another earth like planet 82 light years away. The only problem with that is that humans cannot survive such long journey which will take thousands of years. Other problems of engineering, reliability etc. could be overcome but how to ensure the safety of the human beings over thosuands of years of space travel? A controversial solution is being attempted, cryo-preservation of human embroyos, which will be thawed and hatched by Artificial Womb Devices and the babies will be brought up by humanoid robots which have Natural Language Processing capabilities. And before the actual spaceship can be launched, the whole solution needs to be tested in a perfect simulation inside a space craft which, however does not fly in space. The future needs to be tested now. And hopefully repeated as envisaged and scripted now in the real future. Embroyo splitting is necessary but is illegal. And the identical twins need to be born years apart and not know that they are test tube babies.

The book is about the simulations, the problems of managing a project in a secret facility, the ethical and legal issues involved, how they are overcome etc. The book is the first of the triology and the author succeeds in maintaining a tight story line and suspense of what is going to come. Thus, reading the large tome of 700 + pages is not all that difficult. The editing and printing of the book is quite good. I would have preferred a hardcover but understand the cost implications. Author Matt Browne is a computer scientist and brings his knowledge of Language Processing, Robotics etc. to a good and plausible space scenario. A very good read indeed. I look forward to the remaining two sequels in the triology.

Midwest Book Review - T. Fleming "Piggydiva", Western Kansas (December 28, 2007)

Never judge a book by its cover! The first installment of Matt Browne's sci-fi trilogy about colonization of an extra solar planet 42,000 years in the distant future is a surprisingly good read for a first time author, and potential readers should not be put off by the romance-inspired cover art.

The Perennial Project (the first in The Future Happens Twice trilogy), is a character-driven 700+ page novel that follows the exploits of scientists and their subjects in a super-secret government project that will send cryopreserved embryos into space to colonize an earth-like planet in order to perpetuate the human race after earth suffers a devastating catastrophe eliminating all biological life on the planet.

Browne does not fall into the traps many first time authors do. There is no info dump to give the reader back-story. Instead, the scenes show, rather than tell, the plot. Browne's scientific background and extensive research on the subjects in the book does not prohibit the layperson from understanding the complex subject matter. Browne explains complicated ideas without talking down to or pandering to the reader. This isn't a beach novel, but the reader does not need a master's in science to follow the ideas.

Browne does an excellent job of creating interesting, round characters. One of the absent-minded professors, Bruce, is described as wearing two different colored shoelaces. Equally telling is the description of the somewhat nefarious Rick Kanchana, "Kanchana pounded a fist on his heavy desk, barely missing a plate. He pushed away the plate on which lay an unfinished sandwich. There was bit off cheese protruding between two slices of dark bread. The indentations in the cheese looked almost like the cast of a cogwheel—the work of Kanchana's uneven teeth" (pg 449). Kanchana's teeth, of course, are a reflection of his twisted morals and ugly personality.

Readers may be worried that it will be difficult to follow the different storylines of the twins since three of the four sets have the same names. However, Browne integrates the various storylines and moves easily between them. It is neither difficult to follow nor is it confusing. Though the theories presented about how our universe will end are pessimistic, the scenario presented is plausible; Browne balances the pessimism with the hope our scientific developments can save the human race.

While much of the 720 pages is new information, the basic plot of the story is repeated a few too many times. Mid-novel, when three sets of the twins are brought together, a recap of the previous 400 pages is given. Another 150 pages later, there is a similar recap for the fourth generation twins. It was prudent for Shakespeare to recap the plot for his audience because the crowd was rowdy and often didn't pay attention, but there is no need for Browne to do the same in the first novel.

The third and fourth generation twins are both born and live on a spaceship (unbeknownst to the third generation, it was a hoax), but Browne seems to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince his reader that personality is both genetic and environmentally determined, while real-life identical twins, even raised in the same environment and conditions can have very different personalities and reactions to stimuli. Each third and fourth generation twin also refers to their mate as "girlfriend" and "boyfriend" which makes it seem like Browne is reminding the reader the set of quadruplets are not related to each other so no incest is taking place.

Ironically, though the book is framed around Debrya Handsen, a linguist, most of the characters speak in the same voice. Diction isn't varied, and all of the characters, while all being brilliant, speak with similar patterns. This is a common problem with first time authors, and will hopefully be rectified in Browne's future novels. There is very little of the book devoted to the colonists when they arrive on the planet, and it would be exciting to learn more about the interesting feather trees, the ranaphibo (the six-legged, blue, misshapen hamster-like creature), the light-shy flying insects, and other phenomenon of planet Acantarius. Browne whets the reader's appetite with a wonderful scene of the Festivals of the Moons in the epilogue of the book, showing the human need for pomp and ceremony and creates an expectation of what will happen in the second volume (Human Destiny). This leaves the reader wanting more and eagerly anticipating the second volume.

Overall, the novel was a wonderful read for anyone high school age and above who is interested in planet exploration and plausible future scientific advances. Any reader of this novel will look forward to Browne's next installment.

Book & Reader - Maurice Williams (January 2007)

I don’t often read science fiction novels, but this debut novel by Matt Browne really captured my attention. “The Future Happens Twice” is about a secret government program to send frozen embryos on a 42,000-year voyage to an earth-like planet orbiting a star eighty-two light years from earth. Sounds like regular science fiction so far, but Browne adds much more to the story. The government has duplicated four sets of embryos of a girl and a boy. One set will be sent on the voyage, a second set will be tested in a dry run of the voyage, a third set was brought to term sixty years before the planned voyage, and the fourth set thirty years before the planned voyage. The two sets brought to term are studied to see if they have any physical disabilities that might impair the success of their duplicates when the duplicates finally embark on the real voyage.

Much of the novel reads like a mystery, almost like a detective mystery, as one of the twins, when he reached sixty, has a chance encounter with a thirty-year-old who looks exactly like he did when he was thirty. Intrigued he begins to investigate. When the investigation gets too difficult, he hires a private investigator who does unravel the whole mystery. Since the government knows that this ambitious project of cloning and freezing human embryos is both illegal and immoral, there is an elaborate cover-up to prevent the public from finding out until after the government has had a chance to launch the real starship. The scientists hired into the program are sworn to secrecy before they realize what the government is doing. Some of them have difficulty dealing with the duplicity of the government and the moral and legal consequences for them should news of this program leak out too early.

Browne has put together an interesting story with good characterization of his main characters and a plot line that goes through many surprising twists and turns. The novel contains very good science fiction plus very good drama as the some of main characters wrestle with something they think is immoral and illegal. They think the government has no business violating the rights of the children used for the experiment and the rights of those to be sent on the voyage. Matt Browne is very well informed about what can already be done in the world of science and what is still in the realm of possibility, and he has a good perception of what is morally correct and legal. He uses his knowledge to make “The Future Happens Twice” sound plausible. Even if you are not a devotee of science fiction, you will enjoy this gripping novel and learn quite a bit about science as well. And if you are a devotee of science fiction, you will not be disappointed by the ending.

Baryon Magazine - Barry Hunter (January 30, 2008)

This is the first novel in a trilogy that presents an unusual plan for the continuation of the human race and the colonization of the stars. The story is 42,000 years in the telling and Browne makes it interesting and well written. A group of children are on a starship on a mission to populate an Earth-like planet eighty-two light years from Earth. There were all born on the ship sixteen years prior and are raised by two androids. Only the children don't know that their "parents" are androids or that they were genetically picked for the journey and they don't know the true location of their ship.

Debyra Handsen leaves her university post in order to help with a linguistic problem a top-secret research facility in Nevada. Her job is to revise the linguistic kernel for androids that are in year 16 of a simulated space mission. Other cast members find out that they are twins to people who are thirty or more year's older and genetic matches to others as well. Investigations into their true history and the government cover-ups make for excellent reading. There is a large cast of characters and Browne pays attention to all of them to fill in the details. He has written an interesting novel and with the characters and plot proves that “the future happens twice”.

BookReview.com - A. Williams (February 9, 2008)

“The Future Happens Twice” is an exciting science fiction novel about a clandestine government program aimed at sending frozen embryos, surgically split into duplicates, in order to make identical twins for a 42,000-year voyage to an earth-like planet orbiting a star 82 light years from earth. The scientists working on the project have reservations about their involvement in something that is obviously illegal and something many of them think is immoral also. Browne has put together an interesting story with good characterization of his main characters and a plot line that goes through many, many surprising twists and turns. The really interesting part is that the government plans a simulation of the voyage in an underground facility with four unsuspecting children raised from birth to eighteen thinking they are on a real voyage through interstellar space. Once the government deems the simulation successful, the government plans to drug the children and move them to a hospital with a phony story about an accident, post-traumatic shock, and amnesia. Some of the scientists are very concerned about the moral implications.

Since the government knows that this ambitious project is both illegal and immoral, there is an elaborate cover-up to prevent the public from finding out until after the government has had a chance to launch the real starship. The scientists hired into the program are sworn to secrecy before they realize what the government is doing. Some of them have difficulty dealing with the duplicity of the government and the moral and legal consequences for them should news of this program leak out too early. Matt Browne is very well informed about what can already be done in science and what is still in the realm of possibility, and he has a good perception of what is morally correct and legal. He uses his knowledge to make “The Future Happens Twice” sound plausible and to portray human concerns about experiments like this. Even if you are not a devotee of science fiction, you will enjoy this gripping novel and learn quite a bit about science as well.

Novelspot - Nancy Louise (August 10, 2008)

The purpose of genre is to give the customer some basic idea of the fiction or nonfiction category the book falls in. This makes it easier for them to find it on the bookshelf. From there it's usually the fight of the well-known author, or for that rare reader, inquisitive enough to traverse new territory, it might be the arresting cover, or the concise blurb inside the cover or on the back of the book. In the adult fiction category, there are your three basic genres: romance, mystery, and science fiction.

Science Fiction is primarily the genre of ideas. In Matt Browne's series The Perennial Project, his focus is on the movement of mankind to the stars. The first book, The Future Happens Twice explores the how and why we get to the stars. Why we go, is simply because to not do so, mankind will become extinct. Earth and the solar system can not last forever. Not using the usual leap of logic to travel with warped space, wormholes, or twisted fate, Browne uses something we use daily: languages. In this case, programming languages. Programming that will allow androids to thaw embryos, birth them with mechanical wombs, raise, and educated the children for arrival on the new world. That is a world forty eight thousand years away. No back-up for humans to come fix any problem, or turn to for resources.

The Future Happens Twice covers the vast effort of what it takes to make such a project successful; what it takes makes NASA look like a Garage Band. Ethical boundaries are pushed as people's lives are unknowingly manipulated for data, gene, and possible psychosis. Who are the people that get involve in all this? Who are those that find out their lives are little more than that of a lab rat? These are the ideas and more that are explore extensively in The Future Happens Twice.

BVS Reviews - Bruce Von Stiers (August 20, 2008)

The novel starts out with Ronyo Greffin meeting an older woman on the street in Los Angeles . He is from San Francisco and is in town for a one-day training session for the company he works for. The woman tells Ronyo that he looks just like her husband did years ago. This sets up a strange and very different kind of sci-fi adventure story. A group of teenagers are the crew on a spaceship. They have been on the ship since birth. Now at age sixteen, the group is told some life altering truths about themselves and the mission of the ship. It seems that the two adults they thought were their parents are actually androids. And the four teens were actually birthed in some kind of scientific womb contraption.

There is also a team of scientists at a secret government facility in the Nevada desert. They are the ones that sent the kids into space. The organization that is in charge of the project hires Debrya Handsen. She is a top linguist and is hired to work on perfecting voice and language skills for androids such as the ones on the ship. The reader learns fairly early on that the mission on the ship is actually a fake. The ship never left the earth. The children were born and raised just like they thought. The only difference is that the ship is contained in a special area of the secret government installation that the team of scientists works in. Reading this plot element reminded me of a movie from way back. The movie was Capricorn One and starred James Brolin and Sam Waterston of Law & Order fame. The film was about a faked space mission to Mars.

The book moves forward with the two separate story lines. We get to see how the teens end up pairing off as couples after they find out that they aren't really siblings. The reader also discovers, along with Ronyo, just how deep the treachery was in how he was born and raised. It seems that there was some kind of embryo research that resulted in multiple embryos being developed at different time intervals. Thus Ronyo has a twin that is about 30 years older than him. This plot device takes the reader way beyond simple stem cell research and moves on the realm of seemingly unfathomable potential. These people aren't clones of each other but truly twins in every sense of the word.

I was kind of expecting a moderately paced, fairly short novel. But when I received my copy of The Future Happens Twice, I found that the book was pretty lengthy. In fact, the book is 720 pages long. As for the pacing, the novel does move along at a decent clip. Browne doesn't bog the reader down in intricate detail that only super die-hard sci-fi fans would appreciate. He does, however, provide enough technical detail of embryonic research and space travel to keep the story fresh and interesting.

The Future Happens Twice is a nice, solid sci-fi novel. It does have elements of danger and excitement, although not so much a nail biter as a slight adrenaline rush. Not knowing much about embryonic research, I don't know how plausible the plot is. But after all, this is fiction, so even if the story isn't very realistic, it is pretty darn entertaining. The Future Happens Twice: The Perennial Project is available through Amazon.com and other online and traditional book retailers.

Science Fiction Fan Travis (January 23, 2010)

I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I became really engrossed in the story, and found it hard to put down. I read a lot of science fiction books, and this was the first one in quite a while that had me so excited to continue reading, and watch the story develop. I was struck by how well-developed some of the major characters were, especially their thought processes. Another thing that I really liked about the story was the plausibility of some of the science in it. For example, I think too often in sci-fi writers just would just assume that ships have “warp drives” and other leaps of technology that don’t seem logical. However, your idea about a ship traveling for 42,000 years, coupled with cryopreservation of embryos (and later, humans) made the story seem much more realistic. All of the science seemed well-founded, while still maintaining an air of it’s science fiction nature. Your book was very enjoyable from start to finish, and I am anxiously awaiting the second and third installments.