Gollub delivers a sci-fi novel about wormholes, neuroscience, a revolutionary cult and a chess tournament.
Paul leads an uneventful life until he runs into John, an editor of a science-fiction magazine. John tells Paul about an ongoing conflict between humans and mutants that is raging on the other side of a wormhole and offers Paul the chance to take part in it. To prepare for the journey, Paul works to improve himself mentally and physically. He joins a religious group led by neuroscientist Duke, who has implanted tubes into one of his group’s members, Laura, allowing her to have glimpses of the future. Laura has frightening visions about Paul, who goes on to encounter a cult that wants to take over the U.S. government. He later enters a chess tournament put on by a reclusive millionaire who orders the top two players to take part in a boxing match. Eventually, Paul at last enters the wormhole. The novel’s tone is often flat, and the scenes have a disconnected feel that may make it difficult for some readers to follow the meandering plot, which most often focuses on Paul’s mundane day-to-day life. Characters also make bizarre statements that go unchallenged; for example, Paul immediately and unskeptically accepts John’s story about wormholes and fighting mutants in another dimension. Some scenes stand out, such as the compelling chess competition, but they are not effectively integrated with other aspects of the plot, making the novel seem at times like three or four different books in one.
An offbeat but somewhat muddled sci-fi tale.