Two friends find a previously undiscovered cave, an extraordinary crystal and a foreboding message from an ancient civilization in Hoffmeister’s sci-fi debut.
While Mike and Jim are spelunking, they come across an otherworldly dome. Inside, there’s a crystal and a metal plate with a very specific note with Mike’s name, the day’s date and a directive to show the crystal to someone named Eli. The plate contains another digitally stored message left by a woman from an advanced, ancient society. This information is so significant it piques the interest of Homeland Security and another, more sinister agency. Hoffmeister allows his sci-fi premise to unfold slowly. It’s some time before Eli can pull the digital code to play the message, and there are obstacles, like getting the car (where the metal plate is stashed) out of the police impound lot. The author smartly reveals the woman’s message in pieces rather than all at once; these are some of the book’s best moments and include details of a civilization establishing a colony on the moon, problems with genetically altering animal DNA and time travel. But eventually, the bad guys appear and pave the way for a number of surprisingly heady action sequences, including a gunfight without gravity. Perhaps the thriller’s most inspired parts are the insertion of well-known songs during integral scenes (e.g., Mike hears a song while bullets are flying). The popular tunes will likely stick in readers’ heads; Hoffmeister has essentially scored his novel like a movie. The book also maintains an unsettling mood—characters vanish; a shadowy organization sanctioned by the president operates in the background; and a strange man, who’s been keeping an eye on the protagonists, easily dispatches a trio of thugs to do his bidding. And for good measure, there’s the occasional bout of humor—misunderstanding a woman’s offer of “brown sugar” reaps a comic payoff.
A worthy action-adventure/thriller devoted to its sci-fi theme; fans of either genre will be more than content.