Debut sci-fi of sorts, spanning multiple dimensions and topics.
Born in a particularly multicultural area of Wisconsin, Oliver J. Oscar grew up with a group of friends from a variety of backgrounds, including Shu, a Chinese girl whose family runs a grocery store, and Judah, a Jewish boy whose father runs a hospital. The first half of the novel is devoted to Oliver’s childhood adventures with hints of the fantastical: a thwarted mugging; local football games; the loss of Oliver’s father, a Marine fighting in Iraq killed only after saving “three thousand children’s lives.” Attending MIT at the age of 16, Oliver goes on to a glorious life of charity and corporate work in New York City only to find himself entranced by a philosophy known as Verbum Victus—essentially, a movement aimed at the banishing of negative thinking as a key to success. Verbum Victus allows Oliver to enter a “Search World,” which manages to be even more fantastical than the real one. Adventuring with the same group of friends from his childhood, Oliver finds himself in the year 3500 A.D., making his way across a hostile land, facing everything from pirates on the Great Lakes to drug dealers in the New York Public Library. A whirlwind of characters and action, the story ranges from periods of slow development to furious portions of activity. Slowed occasionally by overwrought prose—e.g., “We were in need, and we could use the flying bikes, but we were scared because of our past, and we hated the flying bikes because of the kids who had always beat us up”—the book maintains a steady stream of creativity even if that imagination doesn’t always lend itself to a navigable story. With characters that tend to be good or bad and settings that swarm with flying saucers, lasers, CIA agents, militants, Native Americans and a host of prodigious young people, readers might get lost in the cascade of wild adventure.
Pops with the liveliness of a young boy’s imagination but often lacks the sharper narrative focus to make sense of it all.