In Thomas’ sci-fi novel, a dying renegade returns to Earth from a Mars penal colony to connect with his secret ward—a young man undergoing cyberenhancements to take his place in tomorrow’s elite.
In 2143, after the convulsive wars and climate-change disasters of the Sixth Great Extinction, Earth has largely been taken over by a one-world government spearheaded by the Indian people, who have also developed a breakthrough quantum computer, the Raina, which they’ve begun to worship as a goddess. Lucas Rivera ran afoul of government oppression by acting as a “ferryman,” getting thousands of refugees to safety during the worst years. Sentenced to a Mars penal colony, where he acquired terminal cancer from radiation, the resourceful Lucas later returns to Earth to ruthlessly eliminate some old cronies and to find Dom Tessier, a state-raised youth in the process of becoming a “T-Man” (or “transformed man”), part of a social elite being wired to telepathically interface with other T-Men and the Raina. Lucas has long been Dom’s secret benefactor, using his riches from his rescues to boost the boy’s status in the ominously changing new world—but the convict’s motivations aren’t altruistic. In this era of genetic wonders, elders like Lucas can effectively data-dump their consciousness into carefully prepped human hosts like Dom, effectively rejuvenating themselves. But what if Dom (who narrates in alternating chapters), for all his conditioning, doesn’t want to be Lucas’ new body? In his introduction, the author says that he used Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations as a template for this first novel in a planned series. However, readers who expend too much mental energy looking for science-fictional clones of Miss Havisham or Joe Gargery will miss out on a crackling, well-told story that also has faint aspects of Lois Lowery’s The Giver. Thomas’ prose is reminiscent of that used by Philip K. Dick in his Cold War–influenced tales of apocalyptic intrigue and features spare yet compelling descriptions of fearsome weapons, robots, seductions, abrupt violence, deaths, and betrayals. There’s also a complex moral argument, a courtroom drama, and ethical conundrums that will likely haunt readers well after they finish the closing chapter.
An exciting, thought-provoking, futuristic narrative that transcends its Dickensian-mashup origins.