In Marsh’s (The Changed, 2013, etc.) sequel, a superpowered contingent hopes to harness alien devices that can tame a plague.
The farming community of Salvation, formerly Pogo Springs, is within the local quarantine zone. The Sickness that killed 80 percent of the area’s population—while granting some of the survivors superpowers—rampages still. Sixteen-year-old Oscar is one of the Changed; specifically, he’s the Messenger—a position that’s vital to humanity’s survival since he’s able to telepathically communicate with helpful aliens. One day, two intruders breach the quarantine: a scientist in a hazmat suit and a soldier who shoots and wounds the scientist before he delivers a mysterious metal case. Oscar, meanwhile, has been in a mental realm that he calls The Nowhere, talking with the alien Teleoinan. He’s learned that the microorganism causing the Sickness, the Manal, is evolving into something even more dangerous. Oscar’s people already possess an orb-shaped piece of alien technology called the Vessel; now they must recover the scepterlike Conductor to, as Teleoinan says, “stop all this from spreading.” However, Teleoinan’s disembodied nemesis, Thevetat, may still be influencing people, as some in Salvation are ready to use violence to force local change. Also, Oscar finds that the dying scientist possesses a photo of his missing father. For this high-stakes sequel, Marsh delivers a sci-fi adventure that keeps characterization and strong emotion in the foreground without sacrificing action. He subtly comments on America’s entrenched partisan politics with the verbal sparring and division in Salvation; in one scene, Oscar’s friend Roxy tells a manipulative blowhard: “It’s not about being right. It’s about keeping people safe.” Although the violence is brutal—often echoing real-life terrorism—Marsh keeps things light and nerdy with references to Captain Planet and the Planeteers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Clever new members of the Changed tribe include a humanoid dog named Donald and Zelda, who can absorb and retain information from printed content (such as an encyclopedia) through her hands. Even as certain mysteries are explained, a fiendishly bold cliffhanger ensures that fans will return for the next volume.
Marsh blends superpowers, paramilitary action, and alien machinations to triumphant effect in this follow-up.