Six people from the 21st century travel 152 years into the past in order to prevent nuclear destruction in Meckfessel’s (Thread Discarded, 2018) sci-fi sequel.
In 2066, as atomic explosions rock the globe, a crew of astronauts flies through a wormhole toward a 20th-century destination. The six crew members’ mission is to “disinvent” nuclear weaponry and thus avert Earth’s apocalyptic end. Landing in the Swiss Alps in the year 1914, they gradually acclimate to the new time period and later separate into three couples. In the United States, NASA astrophysicist Dean Peterson joins Lusanne Demeraux, whose has expertise in capital markets; they work to help prevent the country’s economic collapse. The other two couples—best-friend pilots, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Maria Hampton and Lt. Col. “Boley” Boleskaya, and former Mossad operatives Hannah Rabin and David Strauss—have decidedly different agendas. They plan to “subtract”—that is, kill—key political figures who have ties to the impending Bolshevik Revolution or the Cold War’s nuclear arms race. Another of Hannah and David’s missions is to kill Adolf Hitler before he reaches power. Although the group tries its best to remain incognito, it’s evident, at least to readers, that someone’s shadowing them. Hannah, David, and the others soon suspect that the Bolsheviks may be aware of the assassinations—and they’re out for blood. As the group members suffer physical injuries and mental anguish, they find that they may not be able to escape their adversaries in Germany—especially at the height of World War I.
Meckfessel keeps things relatively simple in this novel, which is to its benefit. For example, time travel is not the primary focus of the story, and although the group acknowledges future historical events, such as World War II, their own tale spans no more than five years. There are hints of romance among various characters, but the author makes each couple distinctive. Dean and Lusanne’s relationship, for example, is only just beginning at the book’s start, while Hannah and David have been an item for years. Conflict spices up the narrative, as well, as when someone’s commitment wavers and Hannah’s growing paranoia causes strife. Additional characters play important roles, including Swiss Federal Police officer Felix Rickart, who monopolizes a lengthy section of the story; he’s a curious, enigmatic gentleman who teams up with whip-smart freelance reporter Greta Bertrand and investigates recent deaths from an epidemic that he surmises are assassinations. But when the plot shifts back to Maria and company, readers will have a long wait before they see Felix and Greta again. As in Meckfessel’s preceding novel, the prose is lucid and concise, as in a scene with Hannah at a German military hospital: “Wounded and maimed men reached for her in agony….Her shoes made a sickening clack as she pulled them from the floor, sticky with drying blood.” Despite a conclusive resolution, there’s a fun twist in the last few pages that suggests a possible sequel or two.
An engaging second sci-fi installment with remarkable details and characters.