In his ninth decade, the legendary actor and civil rights activist Poitier adds novelist to his resume.
It’s an old story: A parent or relative dies, and a young person is inspired to go into medicine to find a cure. Not so, on the face of it, with Montaro Caine, Kansas City–born, whose father departs the planet unexpectedly. Fast-forward 45-odd years, and Montaro is now CEO of the Fitzer Chemical Corporation, “a multinational mining company based in New York,” and fleetingly reflects on the fact that “he had lived nearly two decades longer than his father had.” But only fleetingly, for Montaro is chasing after cosmic truth on a more ambitious scale—or at least after a strange object that is brought to his attention, a coinlike thing that is made of a metal unknown to humankind and that, as we learn, bears an astral view of constellations as seen from another part of the universe. Shades of Kal-El, Batman? Asks an MIT metallurgist, “[D]o you know of any civilization in which these objects could have been constructed?” The quest soon implicates a wide-ranging cast of characters, including a doctor who has delivered a baby girl in whose tiny hand one of the objects was found. Montaro is single-minded in his pursuit but also humane, unlike some of the corporate types who are onto the scent, and though he’s a busy chap, he always has room for philosophical discussions on such things as “[p]redetermined behavior versus free will.” Poitier occasionally wanders into mushy and preachy territory, but in the main, his story retains a detective-story feel with a satisfying and not entirely foreseen resolution.
A pleasant surprise, elegantly written and keenly observed. Think of it, in a way, as a Little Prince for grown-ups, without the aeronautics.