In the 23rd century, a former CIA operative looks for a way to save his terminally ill grandson in this sci-fi novel.
Oliver Hitchcock, a 78-year-old retired CIA agent, is a Beater. This means he’s beaten the Click, an audible, supposedly God-willed indication that a person will soon die. There are unfortunately Preemies as well, children who prematurely hear the Click, such as Hitch’s dead 11-year-old grandson, Oliver Jr. When OJ’s younger brother, Christopher, is apparently near death, Hitch believes he can somehow save him. An internet search returns website links alluding to the idea that the Click is a fraud, but the actual sites are all down. Believing there’s validity to these claims, Hitch, with help from a CIA contact, digs deeper. Information remains scarce, but Hitch does find allies, most notably U.S. President Andrea Wainwright, who has her hands on sensitive documents from the Church. These connect to the Click as well as a lethal virus the world ultimately overcame more than a century earlier. Hitch is clearly onto something, as certain agents, including his ex-lover Janine Rousseau, are aggressively pursuing him. With little time left to save Christopher, Hitch is determined to prevent his grandson’s imminent demise. Shear (The Fountain of Youth, 2017, etc.) quickly establishes a rapid pace, beginning with someone stealing the documents and racing to hide them. While technology in the story’s future world is nothing new (Scuds are handheld devices comparable to smartphones), provocative concepts abound. For one, the largely theocratic world has outlawed abortion and birth control, resulting in overpopulation, while gay sexuality and even in vitro fertilization are also illegal. Like most great heroes, Hitch is not without his faults: His goal is admirable, but he was also with Janine while married to Edna, an affectionate mother and grandmother. Meanwhile, though the documents’ revealed content isn’t surprising, there is a shocking double cross and a kidnapping or two.
Though it treads familiar terrain, this action-laden futuristic tale offers a captivating world and protagonist.