The end of a favourite series is always a bittersweet moment, one I often meet with an equal amount of sadness and excitement. And it’s now time to say goodbye to a trilogy I have dearly loved for the past few years: the Klaatu Diskos series by Pete Hautman.
I’ve been following the series since the first book, The Obsidian Blade, was published in 2012. I was blown away by that book and its awesome throwback science fiction about a time traveling family to the point where it sent me down the rabbit hole of reading the author’s remarkable backlist. I devoured the second book, The Cydonian Pyramid, the moment it came out last year and have been on tenterhooks waiting for the final book, The Klaatu Terminus, to come out to see how it would all be wrapped up. Now that I’ve read the entire trilogy—which is really one story divided into three books—I’d like to sing its praises without spoilers.
In the opening of the first book, we are told that in a post-digital future, huge chunks of humanity have transcended into an incorporeal state. And that a small demographic within that post-human group spends their time enjoying the profoundly disturbing entertainment of watching the past—key, horrifying events of the past—via portals named diskos.
Cue our own time, in the small town of Hopewell, where a young boy named Tucker Feye witnesses his father—the Reverend Adrian Feye—walk into a shimmering disk floating in the air and disappear in front of his very eyes only to come back one hour later looking much older and having lost his faith in God and accompanied by a strange girl named Lahlia.
In the ensuing months, and with his father adamantly refusing to talk about what happened and with his mother Emily’s mental health declining, Tucker’s family starts to fall apart. Until the fateful day when Tucker’s parents simply disappear, leaving Tucker under the care of his estranged Uncle Kosh. And then one of those disks appears at Kosh’s house and Tucker throws himself into it to find himself plunging through time on a quest to find his family.
That journey will take him to a distant future where pyramid and temples take over the landscape and where priests perform human sacrifices in the name of a prophet, to a house at the end of the world, to advanced medical facilities and back again. Every time, he meets the mysterious Lahlia and he always comes back to Hopewell.
Because Hopewell and the Feyes are very deeply connected. And it’s interesting because as a time-travel story, it’s hard to pinpoint when the story really starts: For us, it might have been the moment Tucker’s father disappears. But it could be equally the moment in the far, far future when a young girl is kidnapped. Or the recent past, when two teenagers fall impossibly in love with each other.
And here is the most important thing about the series for me: the fact that it is such a personal story. Yes, sure, in the series, the author deftly explores and plays with the concepts of time and history, always showing those as constructs. Everything is questioned: faith, religion, history, time, the role that humankind has in not only shaping history but also in the way that we interpret and rewrite history through time. It’s very clever and thought-provoking and the time travel is built into the story really well. Heck, the time travelling is pretty freaking amazeballs as any and all small detail could be of immense importance in putting together the pieces of this puzzle.
But it’s the people and the characters that really mater here since, fundamentally, this is a story about a boy, his family and the town to which they belong.
And if, in the end, I find myself thinking that all of the amazing, limitless potential of that mind-blowing first book was not explored to its full potential (and some of the story was perhaps focused too much on fruitless jumps through time), I still think this is an incredibly ambitious, thought-provoking, fun science fiction series that I highly recommend.
In Book Smugglerish: a satisfied 8 out of 10.