As king of miniseries fodder, Sidney Sheldon is justly famous for the juicy clinches featured in such fare as The Other Side of Midnight and Rage of Angels. Now he has turned his attention to close encounters of a different kind with The Doomsday Conspiracy, an international espionage thriller that juggles UFOs, the Strategic Defense Initiative (”Star Wars”), and ecological consciousness-raising.
Navy Commander Robert Bellamy is a former intelligence operative on the skids who is assigned one last gig to redeem himself: He must track down 10 tourists who witnessed the crash of a U.S. weather balloon over the Swiss Alps. Bellamy accepts this mission impossible only to discover that the weather balloon is really a downed UFO. Soon thereafter the witnesses he locates all die mysteriously. Of course it’s only a matter of time before the hunter becomes the hunted, and Bellamy is on the run from a cabal of former friends turned bounty hunters who are determined to contain any public panic about a possible alien invasion.
With lines like ”The doctor hesitated. ‘We believe these creatures are a form of vegetable life.’ ‘A thinking vegetable? Are you serious?”’ the novel doesn’t do much for the imagination — or the Swiss tourist trade — but the action moves mercifully fast.
Most interesting of all is Sheldon’s epilogue, where he lists the deaths of 23 scientists involved in Star Wars-type defense projects, most of them suicides by self-strangulation and electrocution. Perhaps Sheldon’s conspiracy theory isn’t entirely lost in space. C-