In Virta’s debut novel, perplexing global and solar events lead scientists to speculate that they’re seeing signs of a prophecy foretold.
Geologists studying seismic activity in Iceland witness light emitting from the open earth, which hovers before flying into the sky. On that same day, December 21, 2012, astronomers Rachel and Dan in Canada watch a gamma-ray burst in Sagittarius A*, the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Similar occurrences take place around the world, including the discovery of a primordial black hole. Rachel and Dan finally turn to end-of-the-world predictions, namely the Mayans’ belief of a “final alignment” and the biblical lake of fire. This intelligently written novel focuses the bulk of its narrative on Rachel, Dan and geologist Greg as they generate theories. This sometimes comes at the expense of character development, as the relationships among the chief scientists remain professional. Regardless, the villain of the piece is unquestionable: Canadian observatory director Dr. Bentov, an overt misogynist who’s either acting as a hindrance to Rachel or shamelessly stealing her credit. The bountiful scientific parlay doesn’t dilute stellar scenes such as Greg and Rút trying to outrun a glacial burst or noteworthy hurdles like the Catholic Church’s resistance to alternate readings of the Bible. The author mostly plays it safe: The Mayan end-date is considered accurate, despite the story’s chronology extending past 2012, while a skeptical priest is offset by an empathetic, academic bishop. Such an approach allows the inclusion of a rather brilliant scientific translation of the great flood of the Bible, supporting both evolution and creation. The story leaves much open to interpretation, including the central idea of Sheol, which is seen as purgatory, hell or Earth itself.
A story that may not have the answers, but one that tries to understand the complexities of the universe and humanity.