In Bowie’s debut fantasy, three beings from another universe unite to unlock their magical potential and take down a corrupt, ruling mage.
A hacker’s virus has decimated four universes in Nancy Iffik’s Universe Grower, courtesy of her brother Nigel, who compromised her system by browsing pornography on it. Only one universe remains, and just one planet, Aisaphora—and both are still in danger. On said planet, Luiz Alvarez is an investor who incites the wrath of Richard Victor, a representative from the much-feared organization The Business, when his most recent investment for them tanks. Amateur fighter Nor “The Hawk” Dixon is a Zord who’s biologically a female but identifies as genderless as a member of the International Church of Zorda. They, along with shaman Calliya Tregoriya (a representative of the Crenosiyos, a species that shares the planet with humans), are drawn to the Black Mage Manor, where the late Black Mage’s ghost says that he’s chosen them to remedy Aisaphora’s magical-power imbalance. Using talismans to hone their newfound magic capabilities, the trio sets its sights on defeating the politically unscrupulous Grand White Mage. Bowie’s story is set in a fictional world that hints at something much bigger, involving other “universe tiers” (Nancy’s universe is in the “Ninth Tier,” Aisaphora in the “Tenth”). It smartly centers on Aisaphora, though, and its three crucial residents, adding a fourth with the titular character—another Crenosiyo, appearing in flashbacks that gradually inch toward the present day. His inclusion injects an engaging touch of mystery to the proceedings, as his significance isn’t revealed until much later. However, Bowie’s other characters, with their ever-shifting first-person narratives, are the true engine of the book: Calliya is perpetually cynical (“I’ve mostly avoided people because they suck”) and the charmingly dense Luiz prefers living in a drug-induced, hallucinogenic haze. Readers will find Nor to be the most striking, however; as a Zord, she uses the “holy pronoun” form (“ey,” “eir,” and “em”) for both genders and treats males and females the same—although anyone who’s not a Zord is merely a “weak-kin.”
An animated, inventive, and infinitely entertaining sci-fi tale.