A troubleshooter finds romance as well as danger when he tries to use a god’s artifact to save a planet.
Schneider (Wizarded Away, 2018) here introduces a daredevil superhero type traveling the stars in the future. Alfred “Al” Moreno may look about 20, but he’s actually as old as 531, having been recruited into the “Rift Resolvers,” a fellowship of long-lived, fast-healing good guys solving dilemmas and disasters of time and space. They wield mystical sword blades, which can teleport them (or enemies) hither and yon. Moreno is attacked en route to returning the Crystal of Gosia, the valuable property of a god, a caper he survives in typical swashbuckling fashion. (Along the way, he acquires an artificial intelligence sidekick called Henry—think the Star Wars series’ C3PO but braver and resembling a golden egg.) Surprisingly, beautiful Marcie, one of Moreno’s assailants, is not motivated by greed. Hailing from the planet Hemphion, slated for doom when its sun explodes, she hopes the crystal can work a miracle to save her world. Gallant Moreno cannot ignore something like that and risks the god’s wrath to retain the crystal a bit longer and see what can be done. Marcie has already confessed she’s an assassin, but the twist is she was once in cahoots with villain Sham-Bon, a seemingly invincible, immortal conqueror striving to hold onto Hemphion to the bitter end. This sci-fi novel skews somewhat toward a YA readership, even with the abundant gore and strong PG-13 language. Older genre fans who recall Hollywood’s cultish Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai may grasp the trick here: jumping straight into the antics of a comic-bookish champion of justice in midstream and skipping the origin/backstory, mythology buildup, and all those annoying details (like science) that just raise page counts. The tale offers practically nonstop action, simple setups (still capable of springing a few narrative surprises now and then), and an overall tongue-in-cheek attitude. One unremarked facet is that Rift Resolvers subscribe to the idea that the Universe, a benign Supreme Being, approves anything they do because all outcomes forevermore are pre-determined—in other words, free will does not exist. Nobody ponders that philosophical quandary, though Moreno is angst-ridden when informed that he’s not human anymore. It seems that might have occurred to him during those 500 or so years.
A breezy, campy space opera that delivers a close encounter of the retro-pulp kind.