A woman puts her unusual psychic talents to use in this debut sci-fi novel.
Marie Sands is a woman who lives her life in two deeply divergent ways: She’s both an average, logical person who goes about her everyday business, and a psychic savant whose endowed faculties allow her to pick up the emotional energies of the people around her. They also let her communicate with the dying—often when they’re incapable of physical speech—and guide them through the sometimes agonizing processes of death. When she encounters National Security Agency operative Ed Ricks on an airplane, however, she’s finally able to confirm her sense that someone, or some institution, has been tracking her. Ricks has sought Sands out in order to secure her involvement in a newly formed government entity called Standards for Psychic Integration, charged with the task of assimilating practicing psychics into the U.S. government’s new system of nationalized medicine. Although Sands is thoroughly hesitant at first, she eventually negotiates the terms of a contract with Ricks and his superior, NSA director Michael Tipper, which will allow her journals to be published as a public resource. More than half the novel consists of these journal entries, which are brought into the story as Tipper reads them himself. They’re also revealed in a metafictional manner, as author Bateman combines her own personal, real-life journals with the fictional world of Marie Sands. The resulting first-person descriptions of life as a psychic are emotionally sophisticated as well as provocative. In a distinctly human manner, they raise a number of questions about social responsibility, empathy and how to come to terms with mortality. It’s written in clean, unpretentious prose throughout (“The world of psychic phenomenon is alive and has more avenues than anyone can imagine”), although the pace does slow at times. Overall, however, Bateman accomplishes this curious, engaging combination of the real and the fictional with nuanced sensitivity, and it makes for a unique read.
A lively, suggestive and significant novel about a unique woman seeking to help others.