Under extraterrestrial surveillance, the human race grapples with an ancient, deadly threat in this sci-fi novel.
In the year 2120, aliens called the Cephians arrive in Earth’s solar system. Representing a band of spacefaring species called the Plexus Mosaic, the Cephians are on a mission to evaluate whether humanity is ready to be admitted to the group and have access to its vast store of knowledge. But after 40 years of observation, the Cephians haven’t made a decision, and some people are starting to chafe under the scrutiny. Not astrobiologist Shana Savarino—one of her closest friends is a Cephian colleague who goes by the nom de terre Charles Darwin. Then a team of scientists studying an asteroid crater in the Yucatán discovers a mysterious artifact miles below the Earth’s surface. Awakened by subterranean nukes, the underground object stealthily studies humanity’s technology and psyche, eventually emerging in New York City in the terrifying form of a dragon; the resulting conflict will kill millions worldwide. The Cephians reveal that it’s an Archmage Sequencer, planted eons ago by a race of beings “beyond space, matter, and ordinary awareness.” Originally designed to protect Earth, not destroy it, the Sequencer was damaged by a long-ago galactic war—now, it’s fighting an internal battle between annihilating rage and the “indomitable bright point” of its true purpose. Humanity, too, must choose: between trust and xenophobia, between violence and empathy—and Shana, already able to find friendship across species, may be the only human who can tame the Sequencer and save the world. Sharcoff’s (Draconis, 2000) artfully crafted novel is both action-packed—full of epic battle sequences and the highest of stakes—and quietly philosophical, paralleling the “flaw” of the Sequencer with humanity’s own innate propensity for violence. His worldbuilding is often skillful, although culture and character receive less attention than technology (“With compact fusion pods and artificial intelligence,” the Global Defense Force “skycruiser in all its variety—including its top-dog cousin, the voidfighter—became the backbone of humanity’s military might”). But when he provides glimpses of the smaller picture, the details are intriguing enough that readers will likely want more—for instance, Shana’s “Mandarin skirt suit” and the Cephians’ nonhumanoid bodies, resembling giant leaves with “starfishy fingerlegs.”
A well-written, imaginative tale of humans, aliens, and the choices they face.