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A cultlike group secretly implements a diabolical plan in the United States to rectify overpopulation in Gaskill’s (Gabriel’s Stand, 2014) thriller.

The movement in America to ratify the Earth Restoration Treaty seems like a noble cause. But the man covertly spearheading it is the Baron, an enigmatic German official. His true interest is the ratified treaty’s outcome, which will somehow allow his group to bypass “conflicting provisions” of the Constitution and take power. The Baron sends his mentee, Louise Berker, to the United States to push his agenda. Their group, the Gaia Antibodies Network, has its share of sympathetic senators and, to ensure treaty ratification, plans to assassinate senators who don’t support the movement. This includes Sen. Gabriel Sitting Bear Lindstrom; though he’s an environmentalist, the Baron feels his integrity and popularity could prove a detriment for the G-A-N. Berker sets about recruiting Gabriel’s daughter, Helen Snowfeather, who at first respects the G-A-N’s environmental message. That is, until she realizes the group is a cult that worships Earth goddess, Gaia, and believes humans are the planet’s greatest threat and should be treated as such. On achieving power in America, the G-A-N will be able to neutralize said threat by fostering a pandemic to wipe out humanity to near extinction. But at the heart of the nefarious plot is the Gaia Operations Directorate, which ultimately gains the power to outlaw both high-tech medicine and antibiotics. The G-O-D also has incentive to target people who defy the organization, putting Gabriel, Snowfeather, and others in danger of imprisonment or assassination.

Despite the Baron initiating his scheme in the United States, it’s clear that the entire world is in peril. Nevertheless, Gaskill wisely centers the story on only a few characters. This allows for more character development for individuals like Dr. John Owen, a pharmaceutical maker, and Fred Loud Owl, a Navajo spirit guide. As such, the occasional death—or mysterious disappearance—has greater dramatic impact. The first third of the novel is the most enthralling, primarily concentrating on the G-A-N’s attempts to garner supporters. It’s believable that the environmental movement would attract people and equally frightening that it so easily transitions to fanaticism. Similarly, the gradual reveal of the cult is unsettling, particularly Snowfeather overhearing voices chanting to Gaia. The book’s latter part is slower, as many of those in defiance of G-O-D have either become fugitives or gone into hiding. But Gaskill’s prose throughout is concise, producing sharp images: “A handful of the deciduous trees on 11campus had begun to show color, stray red leaves among the oaks, and a few glittering gold spots among the birches, but the grass was lush and the sun warm.” And notwithstanding murders or severed body parts, the author keeps the obscenities and violence to a minimum. As the novel eventually becomes a simple matter of the good guys rallying fellow Americans against villainous groups, Gaskill paves the way for a thorough resolution. Still, there’s a small opening for a sequel.

A lengthy but focused tale with characters that readers will root for.

Page count: 495pp
Publisher: Station Square Media
Program: Kirkus Indie
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