The 4400: Promises Broken, by David Mack

The 4400: Promises Broken

Promises Broken was the best of The 4400 Novels. While I had a number of reservations about some of the plot and character decisions, that should probably be expected from a huge mega-fan of the TV show such as myself. All in all, it was a good conclusion to the story of The 4400, and I'm glad to have been able to read it.

Before laying out my complaints about the story, I should reiterate that I really enjoyed the book and that towards the end I absolutely couldn't put it down. It's only because I followed the TV show so closely and with such enthusiasm that I find myself let down by some of the directions that the story took.

The remainder of this text will contain serious SPOILERS for the book, so if you don't want many of the major plot points to be ruined, please stop reading here.

I really dug Shawn Farrell's apotheosis, by which I mean the culmination and realization of his full powers. His healing has always been an amazing ability, but the further evolution of his abilities is truly awesome, and I very much enjoyed it. I also really like the fact that in a series with so many factions and so many grey shades, Shawn retains the moral high ground through the entire series.

Maia is another character who I felt was really well-written in this book. She's just become a teenager, and the rift between her and her mother, especially in such an extreme situation as this, felt quite verisimilar.

I missed Kevin Burkhoff and Tess Dornier. They were some of my favorite characters in the show, due largely to Jeffrey Combs and Summer Glau. Kevin Burkhoff also spearheaded so many drastic plot developments in the show, from the discovery of promicin to the inhibitor scandal to the unfinished plot about the promicin compatibility test. That's another of my gripes - the loose plot thread having to do with Dr. Burkhoff's promicin compatibility test.

Another issue I had is with Jordan Collier's drastic paradigm shift. In the show, he believed strongly in "a single generation of sacrifice", meaning that he believed that fifty percent of the world's population should die so that everyone could have promicin abilities. This is why he dubbed the "fifty/fifty" incident in which thousands died "The Great Leap Forward". But in this book, he entirely retracts those opinions in favor of a more moderate view, leaving Kyle Baldwin to be the extremist, fueled by Cassie Dunleavy (his promicin power). And whereas Kyle had so often disagreed with Cassie in the TV series, he seemed far more controlled by her in this book. This really bothered me at first, as the transition seemed jarring, but as the Kyle/Cassie conflict reached its culmination at the book's ending, I accepted it since it played out so well. I just wish I could have learned more about Cassie's origins and motivations. I'd always imagined her as a projection from the future, and pictured Kyle's ability as a two-way communication channel with the future.

I also found the decision of the three remaining Marked characters as a bit puzzling. Sure, they're villains, but I don't see how they could think that their genocidal actions could benefit their future in any way. Their motivations and their thinking is just opaque, and they're simply spiteful villains.

The book's ending was nice, but the final chapter - about two and a half pages - was very odd. The story of The 4400 had reached a fitting conclusion, and then the author tacked on an "it's not over!" ending. I don't see the need.

Lastly, Tom Baldwin's power. Since such a big deal had been made of its importance in the television series, I'd thought about it quite a lot and come up with two different possibilities, either of which could have worked very well. I found the author's vision of Tom's power to be quite disappointing. Tom's entire importance comes down to a single moment - being in the right place at the right time. And while his presence does indeed save the world, the world could just as easily have been saved by any normal person in the right place at the right time - something quite easily arranged by someone with future knowledge. In short - I didn't buy it.

What I'd have liked to see as Tom Baldwin's power is the ability to view moments from the past. As things progressed and his powers grew, he would realize that he could also transport people and items to and from the past. And as you may have guessed, in his old age he would be the one to retrieve The original 4400 from their places in the past and then deliver them to Seattle. That would aptly explain his importance.

Another thing I thought would have been a nice twist is that "the prophecy" was lying in an attempt to kill Tom Baldwin, and in a critical moment, Kevin Burkhoff's promicin compatibility test would show that taking promicin would in fact kill Tom. If the show had remained on the air, that would have been a nice moment.

All in all, I did enjoy the book. It had more drama and more earth-shaking events than the other 4400 novels, and that's really what I'd wanted all along.

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