In the mid-21st century, three orphans land on a Nevada base that pits amazingly advanced technologies and spy networks against the threat of a new World War.
The world of 2040 is not a safe place to be in Fleming’s debut sci-fi novel. Nations scheme against one another ruthlessly; oil reserves are running out; and in a struggling U.S. economy, orphanages are an easy way for the unscrupulous to make money, practically selling children. In one of these “asylums” in Las Vegas live three exceptional kids. Mykl is only 5 years old but is secretly a genius with problem-solving skills beyond most adults. Ditto for muscular teen James, who hides behind a slow-witted demeanor. Both are protectors of Dawn, a beautiful, iron-willed blind girl, so they conceal their gifts to remain in the harrowing environment. But—after a ghastly ordeal—the three are detected, recruited, and transported to a clandestine, subterranean desert facility (though named the City, it’s obviously inspired by Area 51 legends). There, Above-Top-Secret commander Jack Smith shows the orphans astounding new technologies: cold-fusion energy, faster-than-light communication, innovative space travel, longevity-producing DNA, and other miracles that could advance humanity. But, Jack says, revealing these wonders would trigger all-out war and attacks by greedy, rival nations—especially China—which are planning an apocalypse to weaken the U.S. for conquest. Jessica Stafford, a college graduate of extraordinary moral character, is another of Jack’s hires, and she and James visit the Vegas casinos—filled with assassins—to play a dangerous game against the Chinese. Just how perilous unravels in the avalanche of closing chapters that take an already over-the-top premise way further than most readers would expect. Despite the presence of children and young adults as key protagonists, it would be wrong to label this tale YA, though it carries the gee-whiz enthusiasm of golden age sci-fi (where clever gadgetry was usually the solution, not the problem, and Fu Manchu types like those found here somewhat grated less in the stereotype department). But the giddiness is tempered with gruesome violence and a grim verdict on what it might actually cost to bring forth a utopia of benevolent technocrats. The author’s remarkable storytelling skills make the novel a proper page-turner, although some elements (a lengthy subplot about a serial killer in particular) don’t quite gel with the others.
An impressive sci-fi tale, even with some peculiar twists and retro turns.