A political thriller portrays a future world on the brink of war as a result of a religious conflict.
Dr. Diana Scorsi is a deeply philosophical technological genius who develops a program, Symmetra, which appears to synthesize all the world’s religious knowledge into a single, higher-order spirituality. She plans to give it away to everyone on the planet for free, as she’s motivated less by profit than philanthropic commitment. Then she’s kidnapped by Ravelton Parlay, an enigmatic trillionaire who’s motivated by Christian extremism and capitalistic opportunism, combined as “Christian Consumerism.” Tuck Squires is assigned to track her down, as he works for Internal Defense, a future version of the CIA. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool “Traditionalist,” a Christian believer who’s devoted to the ideal of American exceptionalism as a tonic to world chaos. The geopolitical scene that debut author Baumeister describes is cleaved by unfamiliar alliances following changes ushered in by a war with Iran and the end of more than 30 years of Republican dominance over American politics. The world’s theocracies all want to possess Symmetra—apparently, it can be used as an instrument of either spiritual enlightenment or mass propaganda—and they threaten to start a world war if the United States doesn’t share it. Baumeister’s fertile imagination conjures a whole new world, riven by real, contemporary global fissures, occupying a kind of parallel political history that branches off from the George W. Bush administration. He’s particularly deft at plumbing the virtues and vices of an explicitly Christian nation. Tuck is a personification of the tension involved, as he’s torn between his patriotic ardor and religious devotion. However, the story hinges on the plausibility of Symmetra—an innovation that never fully makes sense on either technological or theological levels. Baumeister also has a flair for comic dialogue, but sometimes the action flirts with cartoonish melodrama; for example, Ravelton’s enigmatic nom de guerre is “The Presence.”
An impressively creative blend of political intrigue and sci-fi drama partially undermined by unconvincing premises.