In Klinge’s sci-fi debut, beings from a realm called the Plane of Discovery are sent to help earthlings, whose planet will soon face a catastrophe.
Sara is dead and, like others, on planet Tera, a “way station” to higher planes of existence. When an inevitably disastrous asteroid bounds toward Earth, volunteers are called among the former earthlings to return to the planet and assist the civilization in the aftermath. But on the way, Sara is told by a golden figure, whom she dubs Smarto, that she’s been chosen by God to chronicle her journeys between planets—though that may only be part of a larger plan. The novel includes aliens on Tera, including the tall, red-skinned Panzers, but there’s a clever twist: The humans, in their posthumous visit to Earth, are the real aliens. The humans now have special skills, such as telepathy; they occasionally terrify people, particularly when they’re recognizable—like a former U.S. president, for instance—and they must keep their spacecraft secret like UFOs (a captain even cites the unfortunate Roswell incident). The group’s time on Earth accounts for only half of the book, but the trip is an interstellar roller coaster, with a supernova shortcut, an emergency stop on planet Ilyria when the ship catches fire, and rest at a place littered with movie stars who’ve forgotten their past lives. Once the group eventually splinters, the crew’s collective determination to reach Earth is replaced by feebler individual motivations—e.g., looking for family members—but Sara, who monitors everyone while writing her book, keeps the reins tight until their goals intertwine. Klinge laces the novel with sci-fi turns such as malleable time, which moves much slower on Earth and makes a two-year resident of Tera look 20 years older. Also prevalent, but perhaps a bit too obvious, is a religious theme: Sara notices Smarto’s cap is reminiscent of a halo, and Smarto equates Sara’s hesitancy to document her and her companions’ stories with Moses’ reluctance to follow God’s orders. Smarto further implies that Sara’s book will be a Bible “sequel.”
A sci-fi adventure on an epic scale with all the prerequisites—intergalactic travel, spaceships, alien abilities—to satisfy genre fans.