The Serene Invasion

Can you imagine a world without violence? A world not only completely devoid of wars, regional conflicts, genocides, terrorist attacks, mass shootings and premeditated murders, but also random killings and crimes of passion? British author Eric Brown tried to imagine such a world in his latest science fiction novel ‘The Serene Invasion’ published by Abaddon Books.

The story begins in Uganda in the year 2025. Sally Walsh, an idealistic, leftist British doctor has spent the last five years working here at a local medical centre. One day she and a fellow doctor, Ben Odinga, are kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists and taken to an old abandoned timber hut in the middle of nowhere. When, upon entering the hut, Sally observes that the interior is empty, except for three things: a chopping block positioned in the centre of the room, a long, curved sword propped up against the wall, and a video camera mounted on a tripod, she realises that her life and that of Ben, is about to end in one of the most horrific ways imaginable.

But then something inexplicable happens – the terrorists cannot go through with their grisly plan. Not that they don’t try, but despite their utmost effort, for some unexplainable reason, the captors find unable to bring themselves to kill either of their prisoners. The hand with the sword stops just above Ben’s neck and the trigger of the pistol cannot be pulled, no matter how hard the terrorists try. Sally and Ben manage to escape, leaving the bewildered Boko Haram fighters behind…

It soon becomes apparent that the happy conclusion of their near-death experience is far from unique. Not only in Uganda, but also across the rest of the world, people no longer seem to be able to harm each other. Within a few days, the reason becomes clear. A highly advanced alien race known as the Serene have come to Earth, and, in a bid to save the human race, inhibit mankind’s ability to inflict violence upon one another – indeed, stop humankind committing any form of violence at all, upon anything: from this day on, humans can’t harm not only each other, but any living being. Wars are a thing of the past. So is killing of animals and eating their meat.

The Serene do not stop there though. Through the application of their highly-advanced geo-engineering capabilities, vastly superior to that of humans, the Earth is quickly transformed into a world of abundance, cheap and clean energy, and full employment, with poverty and inequality virtually non-existent.

A decade on, the vast majority of the world’s population are better off. A small minority, however, an unholy trinity of organisations and individuals with vested interest in the ugly business of human beings killing each other: the gun lobby, arms manufacturers, and top brass in the military, despise the new way of life imposed on the world by the Serene, and stop at nothing to return to the ‘good old days’. And when it turns out that the Serene are opposed by another advanced alien species called the Obterek, who are ancient enemies of the Serene, this unholy alliance sees their opportunity. But what would be the consequences for humanity if they take their chances?

The novel is set over a period of four decades, showing the social and economic changes brought about by the Serene ‘invasion’ from the point of view of four main characters: ex-Marxist doctor Sally Walsh who tries to help the world one patient at a time, her love interest – war correspondent Geoff Allen, who hopes that his photo-journalism may in some small way help to mitigate suffering in war zones, Indian street kid Ana Devi, who, thanks to the Serene, transcends her lowly origins, and hard-nosed businessman James Morwell, billionaire arms dealer who is vehemently opposed to the Serene non-violent ‘revolution’ that completely destroyed his old way of life.

If you ever wondered what might happen if violence completely disappeared from the world, here is a novel that will help you to imagine one possible answer. With dystopian themes dominating the science fiction genre, it is refreshing to see, for a change, a novel that is unashamedly utopian in its premise.