The Millennium File is a Christian science fiction thriller set in 2075. Two Latter-day Saint scientists, an archaeology graduate student named Lee McKesson and zoologist Dr. Derek Roth, uncover an urn at a site in glacial caves in northern Norway. Dr. Roth has been inspired to recover the artifact and Lee finds herself recruited to assist him unlock its mystery, which, it turns out, relates to the disappearance and return of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Lee and Roth are both caught up in events which may be of monumental religious and historical importance. But their colleagues question their sanity and the director of the archaeological site devilishly opposes their efforts.
It will not surprise experienced readers that this is Glenn L. Anderson's first novel. There are some nice elements and many readers will find it an enjoyable novel. But The Millennium File is not particularly strong as literature, nor is it particularly compelling from a faith perspective.
Because the author is a Latter-day Saint and the book was published by a Latter-day Saint publisher and sold only to the Latter-day Saint market, one might expect that the book would highlight particularly Latter-day Saint themes. But it really doesn't. Other than the fact that the two main characters are Latter-day Saints, there is little to distinguish the novel from any other conservative Christian fiction except for a few surface details, such as Lee's recollections of early morning seminary and her brother's missionary service in Syria. The plot certainly revolves around the fulfillment of Latter-day Saint prophecy (the return of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel is one of the thirteen Articles of Faith), but this is a belief shared by many other conservative Christian denominations.
The book is certainly free of material that would be offensive to Latter-day Saints or other conservative Christians. There is no promiscuity, graphic violence, racism, profanity, drug use, etc. The characters have profoundly Christian experiences relating to prayer and answering a call to assist the work of the Lord. Anderson is to be commended for the way he portrayed the two faithful Latter-day Saint characters in very realistic, human ways. They are not caricatures of perfection and their experiences and perceptions are described in such a way that any open-minded reader, whether religious or otherwise, should be able to relate to them and understand them. But The Millennium File is slightly disappointing in that it doesn't probe very deeply into the impact that the book's events have on Lee and Dr. Roth. In fact, there is not much that is considered deeply or profoundly. The book is very event-driven, even though many of the events were very religious or divine in nature. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The first job of a science fiction thriller is to entertain, and this is book is entertaining, despite having missed some opportunities to do more.
Readers unfamiliar with religious science fiction may find The Millennium File refreshingly comfortable with its faithful main characters and its affirmation of religious values and beliefs. Perhaps I'm spoiled and have higher expectations, because I've read some excellent mainstream market science fiction by authors of faith, for example, the Catholic science fiction of Andrew Greeley or Clifford Simak, the Quaker science fiction of Molly Gloss or David Morse, and the Latter-day Saint science fiction of authors such as Orson Scott Card, Zenna Henderson, and Raymond F. Jones. Compared to these, The Millennium File, even though it was sold in the Latter-day Saint market, seems shallow in the extent to which it echoes the perspective and culture of a specific faith group. It seems that Glenn L. Anderson's worldview is profoundly, deeply, and solidly rooted in Latter-day Saint Christianity, but his inexperience as an author may have prevented him from expressing this as convincingly and completely as has been done by other authors.
The Millennium File also has both strengths and weaknesses as science fiction. Without giving too much away, it can be said the idea behind the disappearance of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel is interesting and very original. One of the novel's greatest strengths is its careful and imaginative depiction of archaeological site in the frozen northern regions of Norway. This setting and the university-sponsored research station there is realistically portrayed, yet remote and unusual enough to be very interesting.
While it might be nitpicking, some science fiction fans will find Anderson's depiction of 2075 implausible. In most social and technological ways, it seems similar to Earth of 1975. Yet there have been some fantastic advances: teleportation pads are now the standard means of transportation. Unfortunately, the impact of such a development seems not fully considered. Why does a college professor visiting an academic in San Francisco have to stay in a hotel when he could simply matter-transmit back to his home in the evening? Some mention is made of the costs involved in matter-transportation, but the Arctic researchers teleport from their base to the dig site only a few miles away. The limitations never seem entirely convincing or thoroughly worked out. Also, Dr. Ross has developed a way to use teleportation technology to construct a living organism from scanned DNA traces. This apparently works for anything, from lichen to a woolly mammoth. It seems somewhat like a Star Trek replicator. This potential is used in the plot, but the real impact such a development could have is never considered. Why couldn't this technology be used as a limitless food supply, for example?
Glenn L. Anderson works primarily in film and multimedia. He has written a variety of screenplays, including a Disney Sunday Night Movie ("The Thanksgiving Promise"). The Millennium File, Anderson's first full-length novel, is not bad, but it's not great. For its target audience it's a good read. Non-Christian readers may find it fascinating in a voyeuristic way, as a unguarded glimpse into a solidly conservative Latter-day Saint mindset. But the book's themes are not unique to Latter-day Saints, potentially broadening the book's appeal. The book is honest. The characters are, for the most part, very authentic. Many Latter-day Saint readers will find Lee and Dr. Roth familiar and appealing. Other readers may think these characters are somewhat odd. But Anderson does an excellent job getting inside their heads to let the reader understand the characters' viewpoints. Thus, any reader will find Lee and Dr. Roth to be believable representatives of a peculiar culture.
The Millennium File is unlikely to be read in a writing course, but it could be included in a historical survey of Latter-day Saint literature. This book is one of the earliest examples of literature which is expressly science fiction (not religious fantasy or "spirit fiction") written specifically for the Latter-day Saint market.
This novel may also become significant as Anderson's first, if Anderson himself goes on to do more writing. In 1988, two years after the publication of The Millennium File, Horizon published another Anderson science fiction novel set in the future: The Doomsday Factor (not a sequel). I have not read that book yet, but I suspect it is a significantly stronger work. In 1993 a short story by Anderson, "Shannon's Flight," was published in the anthology Washed by a Wave of Wind. This story is very strong -- as good as the short fiction of writers with far more experience, such as Card and Wolverton. A very unique ghost story, its content and quality are reminiscent of Stephen King's fiction.
Despite its flaws, The Millennium File displays Anderson's significant talent and mostly untapped promise as a writer. At only 138 pages long, it is a quick, interesting read with some strong characterization and some very authentically traditional perspectives rarely encountered in a work of science fiction.