A comet’s near-collision with Earth alters reality for the survivors in Davies’ sci-fi debut.
When a comet called Lihtan passed near Earth six years ago, the resultant storms rendered all machines inoperable. It specifically affected a 1,000-mile area in the western United States, causing altered gravity and other anomalies; for instance, children born in the area seem to have unusual talents and intellect. Chicken farmer Bierce builds an inertial engine using residual “slush” from the comet, and these engines later power aircraft for a company called Flihtworks. The “fliers,” which can only function in the zone, are used as a defense against recurring invasions of the zone by members of the Uni, a group that rejects scientific explanations for the comet’s visit, instead believing it to have been a paranormal event. The Uni’s assaults have been increasing in intensity, and it’s not immediately clear what they’re after. Bierce seeks help from experienced flier pilots, including Doc Holiday, a physical therapist who’s rescued fellow pilots during battles, and Jade, who has a personal reason for hating the Uni. The pilots test Bierce’s new flier prototype, but there’s something about it that Bierce is keeping secret. Davies’ novel is filled with intelligent scientific descriptions, particularly regarding fliers: “moving through larger pockets of less resistant air the craft began to rock more heartily into the torque, the nose rising more with each access to higher velocity.” Among such details and character discourse, bouts of action effectively reveal the Uni as a genuine menace. The strongly developed characters are sometimes overshadowed by the dense plot and setting; Jade, whose weapon of choice is a low-tech bow and arrow, could have carried a whole book on her own. The author also sprinkles his story with dry humor: Bierce’s chickens, for instance, inspire his design for an egg-shaped flier.
A delightfully offbeat tale of a dystopian world that seems to prime readers for potential sequels.