A failed experiment catapults a Cornell graduate student into an intergalactic war and a quest of self-discovery.
Marc Zemin is working on a time machine so he can fix his past mistakes when he accidentally creates a wormhole. He’s whisked away from his lab by the Mendokens, who need his discovery–they don’t have the technology because research into what they call â€œconsars” is forbidden by galactic law. The Mendokens’ enemies, the Volonans, are using consars to attack and quickly escape. Meanwhile, the rightful leader of the mystical Aftarans, who is in exile, sends his two sons in search of a prophesied sign. According to their scriptures, the coming of the sign will herald the end of a great evil. There are many schemes afoot in the vast, crowded galaxy, and soon the four ancient species find they have to work together (with a little help from Marc) to save them all. Ahmed’s debut is quite imaginative, echoing the science fiction works of Alan Dean Foster or Keith Laumer, but it also teeters on the verge of fantasy, sending mixed signals about which genre the author intended the book to be categorized as. While the Mendokens and Volonans value technology, the Aftarans use magic based on their scriptures; their spells chanted in verse act as a narrative crutch to conveniently get the characters out of tight spots. Marc, too, is stricken periodically with visions that can only be explained supernaturally. At times, the exciting tale is marred by preachy narration, unnecessary scenes and excessive background information–Ahmed inserts chunks of galactic history where a few sentences would suffice. Constant references to Earth equivalents, even when Marc is not around, are distracting, and the sometimes goofy dialogue seems out of place. However, the resolution, though overanalyzed and long in coming, provides a satisfying conclusion.
In need of some editorial cuts, but a sci-fi debut that shows great potential.