If only this book had been published a few months earlier, it would have completely taken the wind out of the sails of Messrs. Resnick and Malzberg and they could have continued mumbling into their beards unheard and ignored.
This SF story is the debut novel of a young English woman who has managed to get absolutely everything right. She has plenty of hard science, carefully researched, her hero is a well-drawn US Air Force Major who specializes in hazardous casualty evacuations from war zones and she has all that properly researched too. Major Niall Kearey is a family man in love with his beautiful wife, so there are no sexual shenanigans to upset the old fogeys.
The plotting is seamless, the story very exciting, the writing superb and you won’t be able to resist falling in love with the characters. This is the best SF story I have read in thirty years and it’s the first of a series.
Niall has learned to hide his psychic ability since childhood when first the whispering, strange dreams and shadowy monsters woke him screaming. His mother moved them to a new house away from the ‘evil spirits’, his father took to drink. To prevent causing them further distress Niall buried his secret so deep in his subconscious even he believed that the strange world he visited, with its advanced telepathic people living in floating cities was an imagined dream. He rationalized his fleeing there when in extreme stress or danger as just his mind evading the looming crisis.
Major Kearey has had too many life-saving precognitive visions to dismiss them. His wife Tami has her own psychic ability, and now his 6-y-o daughter Lizzie also wakes screaming from the night terrors.
After one too many impossible escapes from certain death, the Air Force also notices and he is ordered into a new classified project where his talents can be investigated surreptitiously.
Then comes the day when he is pulled to Astereal while still awake and conscious on earth and finally has to admit that Astereal is a real place not just an exciting dream he has imagined, and this world will soon be torn asunder by the forces of the unbalanced black holes around it.
Niall struggles to master the knowledge and abilities required to help the Astereans while hiding his powers from those seeking to investigate them and shield his beloved family from the secret power brokers who hope to tear them from him for their own purposes.
To get help for his family Niall is forced to come clean.
The Earth powers are all hungry for the new technology of Astereal but Niall is handicapped by their distrust, suspicion and efforts to try to control him. Everybody seems to want a piece of him, but they all want him to do only what they allow and attempt to keep the star-traveler on a short leash. The alignment of Astereal and Earth is looming closer and closer, and still Niall isn’t ready. Before his preparations are complete, he is incarcerated and illegally tortured by his own countrymen.
He manages to escape and flees, struggling to complete his work with the entire worlds’ resources mobilized to find and recapture him. Despite his many setbacks and fears for his family, the drama eventually concludes in an entirely satisfying though surprising manner.
With the knowledge Niall has gained of the true workings of government, the Air Force and politics, it will be interesting to see what role he will play in the follow-up and third books in this trilogy.
I received a free advance copy for an honest review as part of a Read 4 Review offer.