The Millennium File
Glenn L. Anderson
Horizon , 1986. Softcover:
The Millennium File is a Christian science fiction thriller setin 2075. Two Latter-day Saint scientists, an archaeology graduatestudent named Lee McKesson and zoologist Dr. Derek Roth, uncover anurn at a site in glacial caves in northern Norway. Dr. Roth has beeninspired to recover the artifact and Lee finds herself recruited toassist him unlock its mystery, which, it turns out, relates to thedisappearance and return of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Lee andRoth are both caught up in events which may be of monumental religiousand historical importance. But their colleagues question their sanityand the director of the archaeological site devilishly opposes theirefforts.
It will not surprise experienced readers that this is GlennL. Anderson's first novel. There are some nice elements and manyreaders will find it an enjoyable novel. But The MillenniumFile is not particularly strong as literature, nor is itparticularly compelling from a faith perspective.
Because the author is a Latter-day Saint and the book was published bya Latter-day Saint publisher and sold only to the Latter-day Saintmarket, one might expect that the book would highlight particularlyLatter-day Saint themes. But it really doesn't. Other than the factthat the two main characters are Latter-day Saints, there is little todistinguish the novel from any other conservative Christian fictionexcept for a few surface details, such as Lee's recollections of earlymorning seminary and her brother's missionary service in Syria. Theplot certainly revolves around the fulfillment of Latter-day Saintprophecy (the return of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel is one of thethirteen Articles of Faith), but this is a belief shared by many otherconservative Christian denominations.
The book is certainly free of material that would be offensive toLatter-day Saints or other conservative Christians. There is nopromiscuity, graphic violence, racism, profanity, drug use, etc. Thecharacters have profoundly Christian experiences relating to prayerand answering a call to assist the work of the Lord. Anderson is to becommended for the way he portrayed the two faithful Latter-day Saintcharacters in very realistic, human ways. They are not caricatures ofperfection and their experiences and perceptions are described in sucha way that any open-minded reader, whether religious or otherwise,should be able to relate to them and understand them. But TheMillennium File is slightly disappointing in that it doesn't probevery deeply into the impact that the book's events have on Lee andDr. Roth. In fact, there is not much that is considered deeply orprofoundly. The book is very event-driven, even though many of theevents were very religious or divine in nature. This isn't necessarilya bad thing. The first job of a science fiction thriller is toentertain, and this is book is entertaining, despite havingmissed some opportunities to do more.
Readers unfamiliar with religious science fiction may find TheMillennium File refreshingly comfortable with its faithful maincharacters and its affirmation of religious values andbeliefs. Perhaps I'm spoiled and have higher expectations, becauseI've read some excellent mainstream market science fiction byauthors of faith, for example, the Catholic science fiction of AndrewGreeley or Clifford Simak, the Quaker science fiction of Molly Glossor David Morse, and the Latter-day Saint science fiction of authorssuch as Orson Scott Card, Zenna Henderson, and Raymond F. Jones.Compared to these, The Millennium File, even though it was soldin the Latter-day Saint market, seems shallow in the extent to whichit echoes the perspective and culture of a specific faith group. Itseems that Glenn L. Anderson's worldview is profoundly,deeply, and solidly rooted in Latter-day Saint Christianity, but hisinexperience as an author may have prevented him from expressing thisas convincingly and completely as has been done by other authors.
The Millennium File also has both strengths and weaknesses asscience fiction. Without giving too much away, it can be said the ideabehind the disappearance of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel isinteresting and very original. One of the novel's greatest strengthsis its careful and imaginative depiction of archaeological site in thefrozen northern regions of Norway. This setting and theuniversity-sponsored research station there is realisticallyportrayed, yet remote and unusual enough to be very interesting.
While it might be nitpicking, some science fiction fans will findAnderson's depiction of 2075 implausible. In most social andtechnological ways, it seems similar to Earth of 1975. Yetthere have been some fantastic advances: teleportation pads arenow the standard means of transportation. Unfortunately, the impactof such a development seems not fully considered. Why does a collegeprofessor visiting an academic in San Francisco have to stay in ahotel when he could simply matter-transmit back to his home in theevening? Some mention is made of the costs involved inmatter-transportation, but the Arctic researchers teleport from theirbase to the dig site only a few miles away. The limitations never seementirely convincing or thoroughly worked out. Also, Dr. Ross hasdeveloped a way to use teleportation technology to construct a livingorganism from scanned DNA traces. This apparently works for anything,from lichen to a woolly mammoth. It seems somewhat like a Star Trekreplicator. This potential is used in the plot, but the real impactsuch a development could have is never considered. Why couldn't thistechnology be used as a limitless food supply, for example?
Glenn L. Anderson works primarily in film and multimedia. He haswritten a variety of screenplays, including a Disney Sunday NightMovie ("The Thanksgiving Promise"). The Millennium File,Anderson's first full-length novel, is not bad, but it's notgreat. For its target audience it's a good read. Non-Christian readersmay find it fascinating in a voyeuristic way, as a unguarded glimpseinto a solidly conservative Latter-day Saint mindset. But the book'sthemes are not unique to Latter-day Saints, potentially broadening thebook's appeal. The book is honest. The characters are, for the mostpart, very authentic. Many Latter-day Saint readers will find Lee andDr. Roth familiar and appealing. Other readers may think thesecharacters are somewhat odd. But Anderson does an excellent jobgetting inside their heads to let the reader understand thecharacters' viewpoints. Thus, any reader will find Lee and Dr. Rothto be believable representatives of a peculiar culture.
The Millennium File is unlikely to be read in a writing course,but it could be included in a historical survey of Latter-day Saintliterature. This book is one of the earliest examples of literaturewhich is expressly science fiction (not religious fantasy or"spirit fiction") written specifically for the Latter-day Saintmarket.
This novel may also become significant as Anderson's first, ifAnderson himself goes on to do more writing. In 1988, two years afterthe publication of The Millennium File, Horizon publishedanother Anderson science fiction novel set in the future: TheDoomsday Factor (not a sequel). I have not read that book yet, butI suspect it is a significantly stronger work. In 1993 a short storyby Anderson, "Shannon's Flight," was published in the anthologyWashed by a Wave of Wind. This story is very strong -- as goodas the short fiction of writers with far more experience, such as Cardand Wolverton. A very unique ghost story, its content and quality arereminiscent of Stephen King's fiction.
Despite its flaws, The Millennium File displays Anderson'ssignificant talent and mostly untapped promise as a writer. At only138 pages long, it is a quick, interesting read with some strongcharacterization and some very authentically traditional perspectivesrarely encountered in a work of science fiction.
© 2002 Preston Hunter