An apocalypse looms in this debut novel of crossed worlds and cataclysm.
Nine years ago, New Amith was locked in a space race with the Shan, an alien species of albinos. New Amith lost that competition, though not for want of technology. Their shuttle made it into orbit but came back with a corpse inside, a pattern that has since repeated three times. The cosmonauts never survive. Now, with dozens of Shan arriving on New Amith every day, the space program has been resurrected, and Nikos Healy’ll can only listen in from mission control as his wife, Elena, dies in turn. After the funeral, Nikos decides he wants answers. The rules of New Amith seem suddenly too great a burden; life itself has become futile. And so, with only his brother, Giannis, to hold him in check, Nikos sets out to uncover precisely why Elena was sent to burn in space. At the same time, he is reassigned to coordinate with Anna Antc’sh, the supervisor of a Shan archaeological dig. Together, they gain entry to the Black Room, from which they take away a shared nightmare and the conceptual key to deciphering the impending end of the world. In this first installment of a four-volume series, Park establishes a sci-fi scenario rich with half-familiar details: hydro-balloon trams; vaporizing toilets; gods, prophets, and ages of civilization (both past and foretold); intrigue and superstition. These elements are introduced via immersion, which on the one hand is disorienting yet on the other, makes a pleasant contrast to those novels that sag with exposition. The author places readers inside the story, come what may. The dialogue is naturalistic to the point of obfuscation, which adds to the sense of something being observed, not related. Nikos, likewise, is a complicated character: antagonistic toward his brother and abstruse in his interactions with Anna. The consequence of Park’s take-it-or-leave-it style is that New Amith emerges with a rich depth of history while the end of days plot, like a horror tale’s monster never fully revealed, is genuinely unsettling. Readers may not always know what’s going on, but they’ll definitely feel it.
A challenging but absorbing introduction to a sci-fi series.