Lavers' debut novel opens as an alien collective, known as the Bearing, contacts elderly Australian Peter Wilson.
These otherworldly philanthropists have a proposition. They’ll reconstruct Peter’s body and grant him access to a technological wonderland known as the Habitat. In exchange, Peter will become the overseer, the Bearing’s human avatar, and direct humanity through the potentially world-sundering days of the 21st century. Peter accepts and, with the help of an advanced form of artificial intelligence named Sheila, establishes the Institute to begin solving Earth’s crises. Terms like “ferrous solution” and “rapid electrolytic corrosion” abound, and Campbell-ian–era sci-fi fans may enjoy the solutions Peter and Sheila conjure for planet-wide emergencies. As with other futuristic Utopian novels, this one includes political musings. Unfortunately, while the novel engages on the world stage, the same can’t be said for the day to day of the characters’ lives. In one telling scene, Institute representative Anita flies over war-torn Cairo to tour its “pinched and starved” citizens, the “bodies lying on the side of the street,” and the bombed-out city blocks. It’s just one scene of many where the characters fly—literally and metaphorically—over the world’s problems, never confronting them beyond the confines of a window or television screen. When they do encounter personal conflicts, either money or a wave of the science wand resolves the problem, and Peter’s brief bouts of stress always disappear in the Habitat’s technological Eden. As a result, dramatic tension flags, and the characters become little more than figureheads commentating on world issues at all manner of meetings, conferences and political soirees—replacing the novel’s heart with the humanity of a boardroom.
An engaging read for fans of Utopian sci-fi, but limp characters and tensionless conflict limit its appeal.