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The Palomar Paradox: A SETI Mystery

The Palomar Paradox: A SETI Mystery

By: Richard Rydon
Publication Date: March 2011
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 9, 2011

Luper Beauchamps is at it again. After saving the world from a comet that was plunging toward Earth in The Oortian Summer, and again coming to the rescue by stopping the production of intelligent neurospheres that might be used on enemy combatants in The Omega Wave, Luper’s nettle is about to be tested once again. This time his research team, working on finding proof of extraterrestrial life, has picked up unusual radio signals. Could these signals be proof of life “out there”?

The Palomar Paradox is set in the near future, in the year 2028. The “Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence” (SETI) Program is searching for incoming narrow-bandwidth radio signals from space. Because these signals do not occur naturally, if one, or more, are found, it would be proof of extraterrestrial life. SETI has enlisted the aid of scientists and ordinary people the world over by using their internet-connected computers to help analyze the massive amounts of data, (known as the SETI@ home program). And then it happens…the Palomar Radio Telescope at the California Institute of Technology in California picks up a few “interesting” signals, signals originating somewhere in the Capella star system. Three people take quick notice; Leila Keiler, a 19-year-old with a passion for astronomy, Linus Shannon, a lecturer at UC Berkeley, and Luper Beauchamps, who is now 35 and working as the Assistant Director at the Palomar Observatory.

Leila sends Luper an email alerting him to the unusual signal she found while analyzing data as a participant of the SETI@home project. Luper decides to pay the young astronomy fan a visit and before long, brings her to the observatory to help advance his research. With the help of Luper’s boss (and girlfriend!), Karina Lowenhaupt, these intrepid scientists hope to find proof of extraterrestrial life. Hampered along the way by Pentagon official Trent Foresyth and his intern Rihanna Sørensen, as well as a White House that is nervous about what such proof might mean for national security, Luper has his work cut out for him.

When additional “abnormal” signals, coming from different stars, are discovered, Luper and his team get quite excited. Something must be happening. Is there an alien entity trying to communicate with them? But when Luper realizes that Trent and Rihanna are snooping around and may try to put a stop to their research, he becomes very cautious. Unfortunately, Leila’s exuberance gets the best of her on more than one occasion and her verbal blunders may profoundly affect the future of their research.

Author Richard Rydon has based all the books in his “Luper Beauchamps” series on real, cutting-edge science. The reader does not have to extend belief too far to see that topics in these books might just be things we will have to deal with in the very near future. Indeed, the SETI program, and SETI@home are real and involve thousands of people interested in finding proof of extraterrestrial life. The author also takes the time to develop his characters, particularly Luper and Leila so that the reader truly cares what happens to them. I especially enjoyed scenes dealing with Dak, a rather unique squatter on the grounds of the observatory.

If you’re looking for a book with high drama, this is not it. Instead, this is a book for the reader seeking a story that asks him/her to think. Think about all the possibilities and “what ifs.” Through various conversations the characters have with each other, the author takes the reader along and asks "What if?" What if there is life on other planets? Where will it be? Will they be friendly? What if all those signals are simply a hoax, created by some extremely clever person to mislead astronomers? Or maybe the signals are coming from NASA, as part of their unrelated research? The possibilities are endless and the author asks the reader to carefully consider them all. What would you do if you were in Luper’s place?

Quill says: A book that makes the reader ask, “what would I do?”

For more information on The Palomar Paradox: A SETI Mystery, please visit the publisher's website at

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