The Rosetta Codex
by Richard Paul Russo
Review by Sam Lubell
Ace Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0441013309
Date: 06 December, 2005 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
With Blackburn's help Cale crosses the Divide, leaving the prison side of the planet, and joins a group of Resurrectionists. Then when his lover is killed, he returns to his old nurse, and ultimately to his trader family, which has now fallen on lean times without its head. But first, he returns to the prison side of the Divide and smuggles the book across. He learns that this book, the Rosetta Codex, of the title is not just a way to understand the language of the long-dead aliens, but actually contains instructions for resurrecting them. Although Blackburn and a member of a race of mechanized humans called the Sarakheen offer him a lot of money for the book, Cale and his allies decide to buy a ship and follow the book's instructions to bring the aliens back to life.
Why? Unfortunately that's one of the many questions the novel does not answer. There's very little attempt to develop the characterization of Cale; he seems the same at age five as he does as an adult and the novel skips whole periods of his life as not relevant for purposes of the plot. The other characters are even less developed and the only one who seems slightly interesting is Blackburn who sometimes seems like a villain but at other times acts as Cale's only friend. Nor is there much discussion as to whether the aliens should be brought back or of how humans and the aliens would coexist after the resurrection.
Another unexplained feature of this universe is that horoscopes actually work. Cale's father's horoscoper predicted Cale's father's death and the necessity to take Cale along in order for the family's venture to be a success. That venture turns out to be the recovery of the Rosetta Codex. Also, the mute prophet from the prison planet has visions that come true. Prophecy like this is more a feature of fantasy novels and its inclusion in a science fiction novel cries out for some pseudoscientific rationale, but Russo makes no attempt to define this.
The novel does strain coincidence. Cale just happens to stumble onto the Rosetta codex that his father had been seeking. He runs across the village of Resurrectionists literally minutes before it is destroyed. And the Sarakheen's main collaborator in efforts to prevent the resurrection is Blackburn, a man who had helped Cale leave the prison side of the prison planet.
This is a straightforward adventure book and makes no pretense to anything more. It ignores most of what has been done in science fiction since about the 1950s - characterization, motivation, and science. Essentially, this is the book equivalent of a popcorn movie. It's entertaining for those who like this sort of thing but nothing deeper and certainly not worth a second read.