Ray Hammond is a successful futurologist, so you might expect his take on Armageddon to contain some self-consistent analysis of the effects of science and technology on our future, and particularly on our planet's climate and ecology.
Hammond here pictures our extinction as triggered by attempts to control the planetary weather systems, using the moon as the site of much of this industry. It can improve the tourist trade in some places, agriculture and fishing in others, it can stimulate economic growth and expansion. The unforeseen spin-off of weather control, however, is appreciated only by a few dissident academics, one of whom predicts geological and electromagnetic meltdown.
This is a well presented sci-fi thriller - you don't need a science background to understand it, you don't have to be a sci-fi fan to appreciate the story. The narrative presents science and technology as clearly in the grasp of vested interests, but suggests that science is not like a religion - there is no orthodoxy, no heresy, the methods and knowledge of science are open to all, the status quo can be challenged. Hammond develops the theme of radical scientists pursuing truth and thus being in a position to question. They are united in a legal battle to secure justice for those dispossessed by climate control. Will their warning be heard in time, or must the Earth be extinguished?
The novel is plot-driven - the characters are fairly one-dimensional. It moves along at a fair pace, picking up momentum as it goes. If I have criticism it's that sometimes the plot becomes a little too mechanistic. Hammond employs a standard device - he has one corporation, one state so powerful it can impose its will on the world ... it's a "Star Wars" scenario of the evil empire confronting the resistance.
The characters are all influential, powerful, rich, their actions can be a bit too abrupt - there are aspects of the book which read a bit like, "with one bound he was free", a sort of Boy's Own writing. Some of the action is just a bit too casual, a bit too obvious, and a bit too unlikely. You sense Hammond's writing becomes a touch formulaic in places, he gets obsessed with pushing the plot along and the characters suffer because of this, their superficiality becomes their most prominent characteristic.
But my major criticism is that the last few chapters of the book telescope action, things happen very mechanically and instrumentally ... and we get an ending which is sentimental, trite, and, frankly absurd in its irony.
This is a shame, really. Without wanting to spoil the storyline, Hammond sets up an excellent apocalypse scenario. The novel is really a pre-apocalypse tale - it leads up to extinction and explores the causes of extinction, it does not consider the nature of survival for those few lucky enough, or unlucky enough to escape the devastation. Hammond seems a bit too optimistic.
He's also a bit too optimistic about the neutrality of science and altruism of scientists - he recognises that the application of science and technology can be perverted by the demands of industry and capitalism, he underestimates the pressure put on dissidents to remain silent, he underestimates the way finances are withheld from research which fails to meet with official approval. As a futurologist you'd expect Hammond to be optimistic about science and technology, and he clearly is concerned that the neutrality of knowledge can be perverted and hijacked. His major weakness, really, is in exploring the human dimension and the nature of politics. The storyline can become too formulaic, can be dehumanised.
Overall, an enjoyable read, though the end is a bit of a letdown. It's a good, ecological thriller which, you feel, would have been significantly improved by better characterisation and a less optimistic optimism.