From the weird, witty 1997 fantasy The Gift, O’Leary switches back to convoluted science fiction to write about a pair of brothers who, as the story opens, are both dead. But perhaps not: In Detroit, literature professor Daniel Glynn stumbles through a fog of grief over his lost wife Julie. Their son Sean, who suffers dreadful nightmares, resembles Daniel’s brother Michael, a hard-driving director of TV ads. Mike dwells in a fog of his own in a hotel room in Los Angeles; following the recent shoot in the Amazon rain forest, he remembers watching helplessly as his stepdaughter died, but little else—until he’s abducted by three mysterious toughs, “crossovers,” who clearly think he’s Daniel. But a second bunch of equally mysterious agents, “correctors,” attacks their car; Mike shoots the last survivor and escapes, only to be apprehended by agent Kyo Takahashi, who asks Mike about his bird (he doesn’t have one) and is impressed that Mike killed one of his captors. Takahashi, a double agent, visits Daniel, asks about birds, and tells him to find Mike, after kidnapping Sean to ensure Daniel’s cooperation. As incident follows incident, the brothers will eventually meet during a shootout at the stronghold of their old teacher, Joel Klinder, a masterful hypnotist, and ponder bizarre explanations involving alien abduction, multiple realities, entropy, and, believe it or not, hummingbirds.
From fairly trite ingredients—UFOs, sibling rivalry, being/nonbeing—O’Leary works up an absorbing if unlikely array of plots and circumstances that always engages even while promising more than it ultimately delivers.