Allen, Roger MacBride 1957-
ALLEN, Roger MacBride 1957-
* Indicates that a listing has been compiled from secondary sources believed to be reliable, but has not been personally verified for this edition by the author sketched.
PERSONAL: Born September 26, 1957, in Bridgeport, CT; son of Thomas B. Allen (an author); married Eleanore Fox (a member of the United States Foreign Service and former literary agent), July 10, 1994; children: Matthew Thomas Allen. Education: Boston University, B.S. (journalism), 1979.
CAREER: Science fiction writer; publisher, FoxAcre Press. Worked variously as a waiter, clerk, temporary employee, salesperson, and a telephone operator.
AWARDS, HONORS: Best short story of the year, Analog magazine reader's poll, 1986; Philip K. Dick Award nomination, 1988, for Orphan of Creation; Isaac Asimov's Utopia named main selection of Science Fiction Book Club, 1997; Hal Clement Award, 2000, for The Game of Worlds.
SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS; "TORCH" SERIES
The Torch of Honor, Baen Books (New York, NY), 1985.
Rogue Powers, Baen Books (New York, NY), 1986.
Allies and Aliens (composed of The Torch of Honor and Rogue Powers), revised and updated, Baen (New York, NY), 1995.
SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS; "CALIBAN" TRILOGY
(With Isaac Asimov) Caliban, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Isaac Asimov's Inferno, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Isaac Asimov's Utopia, Ace/Berkley (New York, NY), 1996.
"STAR WARS" NOVELS; "CORELLIAN" TRILOGY
Ambush at Corellia, Bantam (New York, NY), 1995.
Assault at Selonia, Bantam (New York, NY), 1995.
Showdown at Centerpoint, Bantam (New York, NY), 1995.
SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS; "CHRONICLES OF SOLACE" TRILOGY
The Depths of Time, Bantam (New York, NY), 2000.
The Ocean of Years, Bantam (New York, NY), 2002.
The Shores of Tomorrow, Bantam (New York, NY), 2003.
Orphan of Creation, Baen Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Farside Cannon, Baen Books (New York, NY), 1989.
(With David A. Drake) The War Machine, Baen Books (New York, NY), 1989.
The Ring of Charon ("Hunted Earth" series), Tor Books (New York, NY), 1990.
(With Eric Kotani) Supernova, Avon (New York, NY), 1991.
The Modular Man, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992.
The Shattered Sphere ("Hunted Earth" series), Tor Books (New York, NY), 1994.
The Game of Worlds (young adult novel), Avon (New York, NY), 1999.
A Quick Guide to Book-on-Demand Printing: Learn How to Print and Bind Your Own Paperback Books, FoxAcre Press (Trenton, NJ), 2000, revised edition, 2002.
Contributor of short stories to Analog and other science fiction periodicals.
SIDELIGHTS: Since the publication of his first novel in 1985, Roger MacBride Allen has been "a writer to watch," according to a St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers contributor. Although the plot of that debut novel, The Torch of Honor, was a fairly standard military space adventure, Allen demonstrated an "ability to provide depth to characters in stereotypical situations, and to communicate to the reader a deep fascination with technology and human resourcefulness," the critic explained.
The son of a published writer, Allen "never let classes interfere with getting an education," as Jay Kay Klein reported in Analog. A journalism major at Boston University, he absorbed enough knowledge in a variety of scientific fields to write about and extrapolate from them persuasively. In 1994 he married a member of the United States Foreign Service, Eleanore Fox, and from 1994 to 1997 the couple lived in Brazil, where Fox was on assignment. Since beginning his career as a fiction writer, Allen has become known for both his understanding of "hard science" and his love for old fashioned narrative, neither of which have prevented him from creating recognizably human characters and situations. As Klein states in his piece on Allen, "Allen's science fiction certainly shows he gets the facts straight, while the human relationships and individual actions are also handled with rigorous precision."
Allen's first novel, Torch of Honor, was an "excellent conventional space opera" in the view of Analog columnist Tom Easton. The story line follows a newlywed couple sent to a moon of the planet New Finland, in order to construct a special transmitter to receive thousands of troops. The troops will be lost forever if the couple does not construct the transmitter in time. Easton continued in his review that Allen "has a fine technological imagination . . . and a gift for pace." A Booklist critic cited it as "highly recommended," in the vein of Robert A. Heinlein or Poul Anderson. Voice of Youth Advocates reviewer Jeffrey French remarked that "Allen's readable narrative grabs the reader's attention and won't let go." The 1986 sequel, Rogue Powers, was, in the eyes of a Booklist reviewer, "cut from the same cloth—fast-moving, action-laden, technically detailed," and was evidence of "a natural storyteller of considerable talents."
In Orphan of Creation Allen focuses on the discovery in the United States by a paleoanthropologist of prehistoric human bones that curiously date from the time of the Civil War. From the questions raised by the discovery, a search commences for a previously thought extinct form of human. Reviewer Maureen Ritter of Voice of Youth Advocates "thoroughly enjoyed" the work, appreciating the "mixture of science fiction, archaeology, and paleontology." There followed Farside Cannon, a 1989 novel based on the near future, which involves lasers on the moon combined with political and social upheaval. His next novel, The War Machine, cowritten with David A. Drake as the third volume in the latter's "Crisis of Empire" series, involves a corrupt political system, the Pact, which holds the stellar system together. The hero of The War Machine defends the Pact against an enemy, for no better political structure exists.
Another coauthored novel, Supernova, with Eric Kotani, involves the irradiation of the Earth after the explosion of a nearby star. Dan Chow, reviewing the novel in Locus, found Supernova to be a "hard science fiction novel" that "makes the central idea real enough so that the implied skepticism of 'What if?' is brushed aside by the acceptance of, 'When?'" Kotani and Allen provide an examination of the physical effects on humans and on the earth. As the story was described on Allen's homepage, "At first, the explosion seems just a scientific curiosity, but even from a distance of many light years, a supernova . . . can have strange—and disastrous—consequences."
Shortly after the publication of Supernova, Allen began his "Hunted Earth" series, the first of which, The Ringof Charon, was released in 1990. The premise of the novel is that after a cosmic disturbance caused by human invention and the use of beams of phased gravity waves, the Earth is stolen by a long dormant alien power and sent through a wormhole in space—a shortcut to another part of the universe—where the human survivors must deal with a new solar system dominated by a strange nonhuman culture. A Kliatt reviewer commented that to fully appreciate The Ring of Charon "one must both know and like physics," while Voice of Youth Advocates contributor David Snider confessed to being confused by switches among settings and characters. However in Analog, Easton applauded the novel—and the potential series—as "grand stuff in a grand tradition."
The second volume in the "Hunted Earth" epic did not appear until 1994, but when it did, it achieved promotion into hardcover publishing (its predecessor had been a paperback original). This sequel, The Shattered Sphere, presents the invasion of Earth's new solar system by an age-old enemy of this new world's native inhabitants. The story also continues the human survivors' attempts to find their ancestral solar system. A critic for Publishers Weekly, calling the novel "exciting," elaborated that Allen's attention to the small details allowed readers to better understand the story's "technical and emotional imbroglios, while the solutions to these complex situations—in the best thriller tradition—are sure to catch the reader unaware." The critic also implied that a knowledge of physics, although helpful, was not necessary to an enjoyment of The Shattered Sphere. A Kirkus Reviews critic, however, labeled the novel "hypercomplicated, bulging with ideas that unfortunately run way ahead of Allen's ability to express them." In contrast, Booklist contributor Roland Green maintained that the book's plenitude of "action and ingenious puzzles and more than respectable aliens" brought it "well up to Allen's normal high standard."
Between the two "Hunted Earth" novels, Allen also published The Modular Man, a tale of robotics, in which a dying robot scientist has his mind transmitted into the body of one of his robots. Admiringly calling Allen "a throwback to the 50s" for writing "interesting hard science stories" that dealt with convincing characters, Locus contributor Tom Whitmore dubbed The Modular Man "a damned fine job." Don D'Ammassa, a reviewer for Science Fiction Chronicle, agreed, judging the work "a highly thought provoking, convincing, and entertaining examination of what it means to be human." As the contributor to the St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers observed, the "scientific mystery" of The Modular Man shows Allen writing in "a crossover form that he does as well as anyone in either field."
Robotics is also the subject of a trilogy of novels that Allen wrote as extrapolations of noted science fiction writer Isaac Asimov's work on that subject. The first volume, Caliban, which was cowritten with Asimov, explores the further ramifications of Asimov's laws of robotics by setting them on a planet named Inferno that has been settled by humans who are excessively dependent on their robots. The second volume, Isaac Asimov's Inferno, elicited the comment from Tom Pearson, in Voice of Youth Advocates, that both novels were "worthy, and authorized, successors" to Asimov's classic novels The Naked Sun and The Caves of Steel. Booklist reviewer Green, although appreciating Inferno's skillful qualities, expressed a preference for Allen's solo work.
After the publication of Inferno, Allen's next four published novels would be based on the creations of others: a "Star Wars" trilogy (based on the films from George Lucas), published in 1995, and the third volume of the "Caliban" trilogy, Isaac Asimov's Utopia, in 1996. The "Star Wars" trilogy presents the familiar movie characters Han Solo and Princess Leia (as a married couple) along with Luke Skywalker in a series of adventures involving an attempt to reestablish the evil Empire. Critics praised the entertainment value of the series. In a similar vein, the novel Utopia was termed a "satisfying conclusion" to its robotics trilogy by Library Journal reviewer Susan Hamburger.
Allen devoted his literary efforts to his own original ideas in his next works. The first volume of the "Chronicles of Solace" series, The Depths of Time, appeared in 2000. This series uses the familiar science fiction idea of a "wormhole"—a flaw in the fabric of space-time—but instead of permitting travel along great distances, it allows for the existence of time travel. These wormholes can still be used to cover the distance between settled worlds in space, bringing supplies through time to where they are needed. It is necessary to prevent people who know the future from influencing the past, however, and this is where Chronologic Patrol Captain Anton Koffield comes in. When space pirates attempt to take over the wormhole to the planet Solace, Koffield is forced to destroy it—cutting off the colony from needed supplies and stranding himself in his own future. Although the Patrol approves of his actions, the public considers him a planet-killer. When Koffield discovers that all of humanity's colony worlds may be in danger, he must battle his own reputation as well as a sinister villain to warn the galaxy of the danger. A Publishers Weekly writer hailed Allen's "well-rendered hero and supporting cast" as well as his "thoroughly practical use of time travel." Booklist's Green similarly praised the book, calling it a "highly readable balance of characterization, graceful and sometimes witty prose, and thoroughly, intelligently developed ideas."
In the second volume of the series, 2002's The Ocean of Years, Koffield discovers that the man who planned the colonization of planet Solace may still be alive—and may hold the key to that planet's survival. Koffield and his crew are forced to go back in time to Earth of the early 3000s in order to solve the mystery. Booklist's Green found this second volume a worthy successor to the first installment: "Again Allen has mixed hard science, social science, and pure adventure effectively." In the final volume of the trilogy, The Shores of Tomorrow, Koffield must team up with his one-time nemesis, Oskar DeSilvio, and break the laws of time travel in order to save humanity from a disaster that will destroy all their worlds, including Earth. Green enjoyed the novel's "brisk pacing" and recommended the work for the author's "intelligent mixing of space opera, hard science, and the drama of human evolution." These skills remain Allen's strong points, as the St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers contributor concluded: "There is no question that Allen has become one of the major hard science fiction writers working in the field, and one of the very few of that subset capable of using a credible cast of characters to make his alien devices and great discoveries seem real."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers, 4th edition,
St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Analog, July, 1985, Tom Easton, review of Torch of Honor, pp. 183-184; March, 1989, Jay Kay Klein, "Biolog: Roger MacBride Allen," p. 172, Tom Easton, review of Farside Cannon, pp. 177-178; October, 1991, Tom Easton, review of Ring of Charon, pp. 162-163.
Booklist, April 15, 1985, review of Torch of Honor, p. 1158; June 1 & 15, 1994, Roland Green, review of The Shattered Sphere, p. 1780; September 15, 1994, Roland Green, review of Isaac Asimov's Inferno, p. 118; March 15, 2000, Roland Green, review of The Depths of Time, p. 1334; July, 2002, Roland Green, review of The Ocean of Years, p. 1831; December 15, 2003, Roland Green, review of The Shores of Tomorrow, p. 734.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1994, review of The Shattered Sphere, p. 671.
Kliatt, April, 1991, review of The Ring of Charon, p. 16.
Library Journal, November 15, 1996, Susan Hamburger, review of Isaac Asimov's Utopia, p. 92.
Locus, November, 1991, Dan Chow, review of Supernova, p. 25; March, 1992, Tom Whitmore, review of The Modular Man, p. 35.
Publishers Weekly, July 18, 1994, review of The Shattered Sphere, p. 239; February 28, 2000, review of The Depths of Time, p. 67.
Science Fiction Chronicle, April, 1992, Don D'Ammassa, review of The Modular Man, p. 29.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1985, Jeffrey French, review of Torch of Honor, p. 191; August, 1988, Maureen Ritter, review of Orphan of Creation, p. 137; August, 1991, David Snider, review of The Ring of Charon, p. 176; April, 1995, Tom Pearson, review of Isaac Asimov's Inferno, pp. 30-31.
Roger MacBride Allen Homepage,http://www.sff.net/people/roger.allen (February 9, 2004).
Templeton Gate,http://members.tripod.com/templetongate/allen.htm (February 3, 2004), "Roger MacBride Allen."*