A professor and parapsychology researcher discovers a key to mankind’s evolution or destruction in this debut thriller.
Beau Walker is a man without a field. Teaching at a backwater university after being dismissed from a government project because of his ethical concerns and bureaucratic maneuvers on the part of a one-time friend, Walker is an academic pariah until two soldiers appear one day. His former friend needs Walker’s expertise, and the professor—who is haunted by both his empathic abilities and the memory of the one time they failed him—has little choice but to cooperate. In the Russian city of Podol’sk, a project partially based on Walker’s work has gone horribly awry, killing thousands and leaving traces of mysteries that threaten humanity’s scientific understanding. Discovering what occurred, and how to prevent it from happening again, falls on Walker and his new friends, who are initially perplexed (in a meeting, Walker confesses, “There’s something I can’t grasp, like trying to grab a slippery ball in a swimming pool. Always just out of reach”). But as secrets and revelations accumulate, the team’s combined knowledge and abilities may be inadequate to stop what’s coming. Throughout the investigation, Walker, a complex intellectual, struggles with the duality of his heritage—African-American mother, Mohawk father—as well as the divide between the rigorous scientific experiments in neurophysiology and psychopharmacology and the intuitive, imaginative aspects of his psychological and cultural studies. Joshua writes with a sure hand, managing to squeeze in many discussions and esoteric concepts, ranging from mythic structures to neuropsychology to remote viewing, while keeping the dialogue realistic and sharp. Although the author leans on slang a bit heavily at times, particularly with the British geologist Gareth (whose dialogue self-consciously uses British colloquialisms such as “munted” and “Bollocks!” at every opportunity), the pace rarely flags, and Joshua allows the surfeit of information to proceed naturally from the characters’ words and thoughts. Because of this fluidity, the characters react in believable ways even when the plot developments, which borrow from quantum physics, anthropology, and psychology, inspire incredulity. In addition, Joshua has crafted an appealing protagonist in Walker. Short-tempered, kind, thoughtful, yet impulsive, he is a flawed but ultimately heroic character and serves as a narrative linchpin throughout this absorbing story.
Deft dialogue, crisp plotting, and a likable central figure make this multidisciplinary scientific adventure an exuberant and involving read.