Hard Drive Backup
by David Shipley

"Think about what we’re doing—looking at moving all the knowledge of this world someplace else. We have a duty to humanity to get our information out."

In the not-too-distant future, Jake is a scientist working with the National Historic Agency on a program named the Existing History Database (EHD). This project literally "records" the volunteer subjects' lifetime of memories via a brain download using specialized stimulation equipment and merges the memories with code in the EHD's database. "The result," Jake explains to potential volunteers, "is an ever more accurate history of humanity in particular and the world in general." His wife, Elizabeth, heads up a semi-classified government research laboratory where the study of electromagnetic waves is funded by what the author terms the WAM (Ways and Means Committee). She and her staff are all diligent scientists and techies working on ways to maximize the use of so-called standing waves. They work for the most part under the radar, and their scientific experimentation is always at risk of being defunded by the powers that be.

For reasons not quite revealed to Jake by his management, he and part of his EHD team are instructed to join forces with Elizabeth's team. A duo of odd middle-aged men in black suits, Orion and Leo— a curious pair who serve a delightful, eccentric comedic effect among the larger sci-fi story—seems to play a significant yet not fully known role in administering the small group of main characters to undertake a mission. The goal is to save all the information (memories) of the EHD onto a secure, standing electromagnetic wave, eventually adding the context of "consciousness" to their creation. This way, if or when a shifting of the earth's magnetic poles (and a resulting weakening of the earth's protective magnetic field) ever occurs, humanity's knowledge and record will not be lost to time and space. The theory is that such information about humans could then be accessed by other forms of life elsewhere in the cosmos. This experience has already happened before on a faraway planet named Arb.

Though this book is science fiction, there is a range of scientific and philosophical considerations with which Shipley's work aims to tackle. Chief among them are human knowledge and the accumulation of our species' historical record, the actual scientific possibilities for such catastrophic geological events as a weakening of the earth's magnetic field, the eventual colonization by humans of other habitable planets, how massive amounts of data and knowledge achieved by humanity could be "captured," and more. Significantly, this is also a book very much about people. His novel excels at character development. The primary cast of characters that populate the book—Jake and Elizabeth, their co-workers, and Leo and Orion—are all brought into sharp relief as individuals with distinct personalities. Interestingly, in the process of doing just that, the reader gets to know this band of scientists intimately. In a satisfying twist, all involved pair up romantically, joining the already married Jake and Elizabeth in happiness. As such, this is also a book about human relationships.

Shipley writes that he has long been fascinated with science. While researching the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, he was "motivated to consider how we could actually come into contact with other life." Having been in the business of technology for many years, including time in the Air Force and as an engineer with Lockheed Martin, the author has made expert use of his knowledge in writing this intriguing, speculative work.

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