A man discovers and explores strange powers in Lobban’s debut sci-fi novel.
John McAllen is born into an idyllic life: he’s well-off, extremely intelligent, strong, and curious about the world around him. What he’s most curious about, however, seems unattainable: telekinesis, or, as John comes to name it, “FernMacht” (from Spanish and German words meaning “far” and “power,” respectively). As he grows older, he begins to explore its possibility, eventually going to India to learn yoga and meditation, and in time he learns how to stretch his mind and apply its power to the physical world. He returns to the United States and meets a wonderful woman named Rachel and gets engaged to her; he reveals his power to her one night when someone tries to mug them. John soon teaches her FernMacht, and together the two embark upon a campaign to teach a trusted group of friends how to use this ability. FernMacht is eventually “disseminated” across the globe, and the novel describes its benefits at length. A wide range of other events occur, such as John and Rachel meeting someone else who knows about FernMacht and traveling to North Korea to prevent an execution; other people use the power to prevent a robbery, catch two serial killers, break up a kidnapping ring, perform private-eye work, and for border security, among many other things. McAllen’s enthusiasm for his subject matter is obvious, as when he depicts John experimenting with his powers: “Elated by my new knowledge, I came up with a comical idea. I knew that I had a bottle of tonic water….Could I find the bottle without opening the refrigerator door?” The prose can also be rather stiff, though, as when John notes, “Beauty and attractiveness have too many dimensions to them for it to be meaningful to say one woman has more of one of those qualities than another.” This book is a series of vignettes that extends over several hundred pages, but unfortunately, it never gels into a coherent plot with stakes, urgency, rising action, falling action, or denouement. There’s little to drive the novel forward, leaving it mired in the beginnings of an idea. That said, readers interested in the physics of telekinesis may enjoy this book.
A well-intentioned but meandering novel that could have benefited from a tighter focus.