In this science-fiction–laced thriller, a researcher runs afoul of a sinister organization after making an ominous discovery about human consciousness.
Eric Argus, Kosmatka’s narrator, is a troubled man. When the book opens, his life is nearing the bottom of an emotional, professional, and physical spiral: his demons have (understandably) estranged him from much of his family, and his scientific career has seemingly expired. The experiment that revives it seems to offer proof of the existence of the soul; soon, Eric is enmeshed with both the societal implications of his discovery and more pressing threats, as sinister forces begin to put him and his colleagues into harm’s way. In the novel’s first half, the most memorable scenes are those of intelligent people bantering about high-concept ideas: “We reached a 16-coherence state and then used nuclear resonance to decode it” being one memorable example. And the more high-concept aspects of the book, both via Eric’s initial research and through a larger perspective that the plot eventually brings in, are impressively ominous. Eric’s tortured family back story, though, begins to seem increasingly irrelevant as the novel proceeds toward its conclusion. And for all that Kosmatka has put in to his impressive premise, the times when his protagonist is forced to contend with warring secret factions can feel overly familiar. This novel is at its most memorable when it's at its smartest, leaving its flawed narrator to contend with the terrifying implications of all that he’s set in motion.
Though it loses steam when it covers familiar ground, Kosmatka’s novel delivers a number of thrills, along with believable science and ominous themes.