In Levin’s sci-fi debut, a young man in the 24th century travels through space and time, confronts aliens, and falls in love.
Being an Eisenstein is far from easy. For centuries, 16-year-old Michael’s scientist forbears created bigger and deadlier weapons of mass destruction. The American Isles, formerly known as the United States, has been devastated by world wars and melting polar ice caps over the years. Now, in 2378, its citizens believe that the government’s been lying for years about extraterrestrials living in underwater biospheres on Earth. Michael fears that his father, Benjamin, has knowledge of the aliens, and he also thinks that the government will soon expect him, Michael, to invent new weapons. Michael accompanies his father to what he presumes is a meeting about weapons development, but a trek into dark tunnels results in him being knocked unconscious. He awakens to meet Ezekial, a time traveler who takes him through a wormhole to another planet. There, Michael encounters people who see all Eisensteins as a menace, and some claim shared history with him that he doesn’t remember. Soon, evil beings are out for his blood, plotting an attack against Earth and threatening his girlfriend, Maya. Levin’s unorthodox tale begins as a series of diary entries in which Michael addresses readers in time-stamped sections interspersed with other characters’ perspectives. Familiar genre elements, such as teleportation, are coupled with less recognizable but equally chic ones, such as Michael’s newly “extended mind,” which gives him powers akin to telepathy. Levin grounds the tale by giving the protagonist an appreciation for ancient popular culture (including a reference to the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Nevertheless, despite relatively minimal time travel, the story’s chronology gets confusingly jumbled. Fifteen years after the initial action, for example, the year is noted as 2378, then 2393, and later, 2387. Although this book reveals some things about Michael’s mysterious background, there remain myriad worlds to explore in planned subsequent volumes.
This novel’s offbeat narrative style and absorbing protagonist help to overcome its occasional missteps.