Young priest Joe Stanton is hunted by a vicious military-industrial conspiracy when he becomes the latest man afflicted by mystic—and very likely fatal—visions of strange marine environments and parental loss.
Bennett’s (Battle for Cascadia, 2011, etc.) sure hand keeps this apocalyptic yarn from sinking in outsized action and borderline-cartoonish characterizations. Joe Stanton is a handsome, compassionate yet two-fisted Episcopal priest with a girlfriend, Ella, who everyone agrees is stunningly gorgeous. Joe is suddenly seized by panicked visions of a deceased daughter he never had and overwhelming emotions of grief and loss. When amateur video of Stanton’s public meltdown goes viral, the incident draws the attention of Erebus, a rogue international military-security contractor (think Blackwater). Two of their divers suffered identical symptoms and died with what appeared to be brain tumors. Sheldon Beck, psychopath scion of the alpha-predator family that runs Erebus, wants to know the connection. Beck and his sadistic mercenaries, amoral doctors and ex–Special Forces killers have Joe and Ella under surveillance on the Washington state coastline, as the couple realizes Joe is telepathically linked to an astounding event unfolding in Earth’s oceans. Sci-fi fans may sense parallels with the comedic plotlines of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) or Douglas Adams’ So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984); this time, though, it’s played straight. Yet Bennett, after a neat Dean Koontz–style curtain-raiser, keeps raising the stakes. And, like a clever magician, he diverts the reader’s attention while taking the ecological-end-times scenario to the next level. The tone is consistent with much Christian-oriented fantasy fiction—the title apparently refers not only to the year this takes place, but also to a biblicalchapter and verse—and there are functional equivalents of a deity, the devil and a Christ-like sacrifice. But the emphasis is on environmentalism more so than evangelism. Indeed, except for the ever virtuous hero and heroine, Homo sapiens don’t seem to be deemed a species worth saving.
Deft storytelling and a riptide of action propel this cataclysmic narrative along, regardless of its eco-religious ballast.