The first book in a sci-fi series uses its android princes and societies hidden under Antarctica to explore broad theological questions.
Book 1 begins with the giant humanoid robot Prince Ahya, Crown Prince of Regnum Aeturnum, attempting to escape a hidden city with his creator, Dietrich Schmidt. He is trying to avoid the mission forced upon him by Grigori Geist, the dictator who has been building the city under Antarctica. Geist wants him to assassinate a human named Brian Renney, a former soldier and hockey coach living in Michigan. Ahya is one of seven “archvaucans,” leaders of the humanoid “vaucan” race Schmidt created to protect and run the city. It’s an impressive bit of worldbuilding, complete with a map and glossary for readers. The shining secret world fits perfectly with the real world Earth, where most of the action takes place. It also has compelling characters, many of them with realistic problems. Ahya’s story is the standard myth of a young warrior struggling to fulfill his destiny and defeat ultimate evil—in this case, Geist. His relationship with Brian, who eventually serves as his mentor, is the crux of the story. Brian’s troubles with his family and with his past are decidedly not the stuff of science fiction. His experiences in Vietnam have made him distant from his wife and two sons. He has nightmares he can’t communicate, and he’s hard on Jason and Scott. Brian has some hope of redemption, though, through his actions with Ahya, whom he dubs Flash. Their relationship also brings up theological questions that add depth to the novel. The stories of Brian and Ahya are in stark contrast, but they fit together well, and that’s what makes the book special. It’s not perfect. There are plot points that fall together far too easily, but the action stays taut enough to distract from such issues.
A solid start that would benefit from plot-tightening in future installments.