Cover image of "Maelstrom," a novel about the idea that other worlds collide with Earth

The Bermuda Triangle. Yeti and the Loch Ness Monster. The Mary Celeste. Legends like these never seem to die. But is there a common thread that links them other than what how unlikely they seem? You’ll never find a more colorful answer than in Maelstrom, the eleventh novel in Peter Cawdron’s long-running series of standalone tales of First Contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. A skein of three closely-linked stories, Maelstrom skillfully explores the fanciful notion that other worlds collide with Earth.

An encounter with a Neanderthal

In “Collision,” the first of the three stories, the protagonist is Dr. Elizabeth Callie, an American surgeon working in a poor rural Chinese clinic. There, she encounters an impossible patient—a Neanderthal. And when she attempts to accompany him back to his people in the desert, they stumble into a top-secret Chinese military facility. There, the story takes an even stranger turn.

Rampaging dinosaurs in Central Park

Book Two of Maelstrom is entitled “Impact.” And it seems to bear no connection to Dr. Callie and Ax, the name she’s given the Neanderthal. The scene has shifted to Central Park in New York City. There, our attention moves to a young police officer named Mark Janos and Victoria Selena Mendes, a medic. The two find themselves caught up in a massive explosion that has obliterated a huge portion of the park and the adjoining Harlem neighborhood. But what’s even stranger is that the pair encounter a family of wandering sauropods and a theropod resembling Tyrannosaurus Rex. But even this astonishing development isn’t the oddest thing to occur.

Maelstrom (First Contact #11) by Peter Cawdron (2017) 280 pages ★★★★☆

Map of the Bermuda Triangle, one of the mysteries explained in this novel when other worlds collide with Earth
In the 1950s, several airplanes and ships disappeared into the region that appears in light blue on this map. It’s known as the Bermuda Triangle, and it’s one of the mysterious phenomena Peter Cawdron sets out to explain in this intriguing science fiction novel. Image: Wikipedia

Adventuring into a new world

The two stories come together in Book Three, the novel’s title story. Mark Janos, Vicky Mendes, Dr. Callie, and Ax meet in the desert of Xinjiang. Together with two scientists Dr. Callie has met deep inside a mountain within the military facility, they journey through a singularity of sorts in an effort to stop the collision of worlds that has caused so much havoc on Earth. We know they will succeed (or else there would be no one to read the story). But the adventures they undertake in their quest to save the planet are suspenseful to the end.

The author comments

“Parallel worlds have been a mainstay of science fiction for decades, and I was initially skeptical I could bring anything new to the sub-genre,” Cawdron writes. He goes on to note, “When it comes to worlds colliding, we are well into the realm of science fiction. There are some speculative ideas in the scientific community that the cosmic background radiation may contain evidence of colliding universes as the Big Bang unfolded, but there’s no definitive proof, and no reason to think such an event could occur again in the tiny region of space that makes up the Earth, but it’s a fun, interesting storyline.” Yes, indeed. That it is.

For more reading

This is one of the novels in Peter Cawdron’s insightful First Contact book series.

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