The search for Paradise, which people believe will be the only place to survive the fated collision between two inhabited planets, leads to endless battles in Napier’s (Beta Earth: Between Worlds 2.0 Edition, 2014, etc.) latest sci-fi outing.
This collection comprises three stories, each drastically shorter than the last. In the first, “Awakening,” Theia, or Beta Earth, initially the “second chance” planet, has fallen prey to crimes and criminals that plague the original Earth. The new utopia is Paradise, which proves elusive. Factions such as the United Federation, a global military force, and Final Bloodline, a cult, are hunting members of Project Guardian. The members, free of “limiters” (which block people’s true potential for power), are more susceptible as vessels for Tryle, a dormant “messenger” who will lead the way to Paradise. Mercenary Clave tries to protect Raph, who survived a UF attack on Beta Earth, from succumbing to Tryle while dodging bounty hunter Gene, who’s out for revenge. “Awakening” is sometimes disjointed, coming across as a series of smaller battles with little story progression. There likewise isn’t resolution by the end, which feels like the conclusion of a chapter rather than a story. The sometimes lethal clashes, though, are entertaining, resembling Dungeons & Dragons games; those in confrontations, generally one-on-one, will often “score” a hit or blow. The second story, “System Failure,” is more focused, zeroing in on Montello (a small but notable character in “Awakening”), who helps hackers work remotely. He recruits them for an assault against the government and incurs the wrath and eventual retribution of Kid Vicious, whom Montello embarrassed during a display of skills. The exhilarating “System Failure” features numerous references to earlier characters. The much shorter final yarn, “A Boy and His Cat,” spotlights Travis, a significant character in a prior story (under another name), who endures a tragic event that ultimately leads to his powerful status later in life.
Disjointed storylines don’t diminish Napier’s endearing and contagious adoration of the sci-fi genre.