An engaging, fresh take on sci-fi that educates while it entertains.
It’s 2020 in Tasmania, and 17-year-old Nat and his older half brother, Seb, live a relatively uninteresting, small-town life—until, after talking about a “portal,” Seb’s friend Rick disappears during a storm at sea. Seb decides to leave Tasmania to investigate Rick’s mysterious disappearance, as well as his own involvement in a series of strange, perhaps even otherworldly events. Although he cautions Nat not to follow him, Seb leaves Nat a cryptic note that leads Nat to Yoshiki, an elderly man who lives nearby, and his granddaughter, the beautiful but bossy Norika, who agree to help Nat find Seb. After Yoshiki gives Nat a rock that has some unusual powers, Nat finds himself in danger from the Ascendants, people from another planet who intend to reprogram human DNA in order to alter the course of history. In their quest to find Seb, Nat and Norika must use their knowledge of science, linguistics and history to decipher a series of diagrams that open portals through time and space, from 1930s Japan to ancient Athens to far-flung corners of the universe and back to Earth. As Nat, Norika and Seb learn more about the Ascendants, they discover a network of resistance that includes Survivors, the original settlers of Earth, and their Descendants. All are drawn into an intergalactic war that may end not only life as they know it, but life as it has always been known. McCallum’s debut blends the fast-paced excitement of a classic time-travel novel with well-rounded characters and imaginative locations; the titular setting, including a colorful scene featuring Greek politicians, is particularly rich. Without sacrificing realistic dialogue and emotion in service of plot, McCallum remains keenly aware of an obligation to both entertain and emote.
Efficiently told and imaginatively plotted, this debut will delight both teens and adults.