In Sales’ first sci-fi novel in an announced trilogy, a superpowered mutant in the 23rd century trains for his alien-influenced destiny.
In a somewhat Joseph Heller–esque 23rd century, mankind realizes that the Hoodia, reptilian aliens determined to make Homo sapiens less warlike and troublesome, have been guiding its destiny and evolution for millennia. To this end, the Hoodia have used computer projections to simulate “Angels” and spirit-possessions. From time to time, they also create a “jump reactor,” a messiah figure, to kick the paradigm up a notch—an especially high-risk job that can go badly wrong. The latest selection is Raymond Sky, a “Quad-Core mutant” with titanium-reinforced superstructure, an extra lung that allows brief periods of survival in the vacuum of space, and the equivalent of nuclear-fusion reactors in his body. (In the book’s typically wonky fashion, it’s explained that his father was secretly the Greek god Neptune.) He also has a turtle-shaped helper droid, à la R2-D2, who rides on his back and gives him the nickname “the Camel.” After an abortive career as a treasure hunter, the hapless Ray is groomed to become a secret agent. He’s also inducted into the human elite secret society Scalps and Skeletons and still finds time for a beginning romance. It all ends with his first jump-reactor assignment to signal mankind’s leap from glorified monkeys to citizens of the universe. Needless to say, the overall mission is a bit of a silly one, as is the mystifying series of tasks that Ray must complete in the Scalps and Skeletons recruitment ritual. The secret society also eats up a lot of the book’s narrative bandwidth. The book’s lateral-thinking storyline and quirky sense of humor, however, tend to recall the cult-movie hero of the 1984 sci-fi film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension!. Buckaroo’s credo, “No matter where you go, there you are,” would fit right in with this novel’s prose.
An absurdist sci-fi romp.