An alien transmission grants a maverick tycoon the knowledge to create wormhole technology that could revitalize a dysfunctional Earth.
After a disastrous global financial collapse, visionary entrepreneur August Bridges (of a company called Mirtopik) partially revived the world economy with a cryptocurrency called the “eco,” based on offsetting greenhouse gases and global warming. But his other pet project—which isn’t embraced by his treacherous Russian partners—is to elevate mankind by establishing radiotelescope contact with advanced aliens and asking for the secret to faster-than-light travel. His dream seemingly comes true when a faraway aquatic civilization transmits blueprints of instantaneous travel via space-time wormholes. But soon afterward, those same aliens are engulfed by a black hole when their method fails. They manage to transmit a final, dire warning to Earth, but that message is suppressed by shadowy forces on Earth. Winburn’s plot follows the vainglorious Bridges and several other key players—a Tibetan monk orbiting Neptune, a driven exobiologist on Mars trying to save the only native ecosystem, a young woman rising in the ranks in Mirtopik security—who are all conflicted about or acting as pawns in the deployment of Bridges’ hazardous scheme. Another key player is a jazz-loving clone whose barely legal status as a human entity seems to drive him to play an extreme game of manipulation and deceit. Debut author Winburn consistently impresses with a thoughtful 22nd-century saga that draws on such common sci-fi tropes as interplanetary corporate skullduggery, first contact with aliens, and the unintended effects of groundbreaking tech—all done before by others, but here quilted together into a transfixing narrative. Some may find the sequel-hook open ending to be a letdown after such an inspired launch; others may wonder if it fulfills the occasional Buddhist precepts in the story’s multicultural mosaic, which deny neat, simple wrap-ups. In an introduction, the author explains how his own Buddhism flavored the novel; the resulting novel isn’t a heavy religious tract, but the density of its ideas and themes could fill many a meditation.
High-quality, multifaceted sci-fi, blending ecological and religious themes in an engaging manner.