A fanciful sci-fi novel that offers another take on the mad scientist.
There’s something deeply wrong about the sanitarium that houses Theron Möbius. For one, the “treatments” administered by a sinister doctor and his orderlies involve a terrifying creature without a head, “only a great, moist sphincter” with tendrils that somehow penetrate Theron’s brain and soul, emptying him of memories. And patients mysteriously disappear—ostensibly cured and released—but they’re never heard from again. Ninety years after Theron’s daring (and gruesome) escape from the sanitarium, aided by his friend and fellow patient Sensimion, Theron works as a celebrated scientist who has built a gateway to other dimensions. He suffers bouts of the strange insanity that landed him in the sanitarium and barely manages to keep them at bay. When the scientist receives a mysterious call from someone claiming to be his brother, Theron is understandably suspicious. But after the simulacrum gives Theron a design for a powerful lens that will enable him to see truths beyond human knowledge, Theron cannot help but pursue this potentially dangerous line of scientific, extraterrestrial and psychological inquiry. Debut author Vale’s plot-driven tale of the clash between science and the soul probes the interesting philosophical implications of this Faustian bargain, but the overworked prose is distracting: “This was supposed to be a time of exultation. Why do you come to me, now, spewing forth revelations that have sent the brick and mortar of my world down upon me?” Or “ ‘Would you like to freshen up?’ asked Theron. ‘You look pale and haggard.’ ‘These are just some of the symptoms of brandishing these dark eyes.’ ” The continually taut dramatic tension is unsustainable. Readers of sci-fi may appreciate Vale’s twists on traditional tropes—interplanetary travel, futuristic gadgets—but may get bogged down in the heavy language.
An initially interesting, but ultimately exhausting, foray into science versus humanity.