Cray’s sci-fi thriller stars a heroine who battles a hidden race determined to curtail humanity’s growth.
Andra Barger is a diminisher. Utilizing arcane abilities, she stalks pregnant women and surreptitiously places a special gel on their palms. The gel chemically alters the unborn children, “diminishing” them by preventing special powers from developing. Andra performs this chilling work at the behest of the Cinüe, a hidden branch of humanity, who have managed their evolution. The Cinüe have sequestered themselves in a place called Edenshire, but every 50 years, the Sugar Dandruff Council—nine individuals who assign Andra’s targets—vote on whether to maintain or repeal the Jeremiah Maybe Diminishing Act, which according to Cinüe leader Asantha Cooray VIII, is about “keeping everyone equal...and keeping the peace.” While on assignment in Hawaii, Andra runs into Wade, an old flame who acts as a “mailman” for the Cinüe. He delivers a message from Asantha herself: “Sugar Dandruff Council convening in three days for renewal vote. You’ll be my proxy.” Andra’s first instinct is to vote against renewing the Diminishing Act. When she eventually meets Asantha, however, so begins the unraveling of the world’s deepest secrets. In this visionary work, Cray (Friends from 4 A.M., 2012, etc.) marries heady concepts to kaleidoscopic tableaux while keeping both in service to his characters’ humanity. The work continually surprises, as in the line about Wade’s “necrospondence,” a special candle that’s like “peeking inside a Faberge egg, only the ‘egg’ could spy upon another place.” Cray also delights in the most gorgeous settings, from the opening on a Hawaiian beach to Australia’s red sandstone monolith Uluru, which “sparkled whenever the fading twilight hit the coarse quartz and feldspar.” The narrative’s whiplash pacing is perfect with a species at stake, and Cray parlays every plot element—including Jackson, Andra’s terminally ill brother—into a satisfying twist. Ultimately, this adventure is a linguistic feast and a moral challenge that readers should be eager to pass along.
Sumptuous sci-fi with originality to spare.