Soon, Frazell springs on readers a shocking death, some attempts on Lefhans’s life, a frightening connection to the Third Reich, and intimations that the Lefhans lineage is tied up in a grand secret, all amid hints that some feral beast stalks humanity—and the revelation that an inventor, Franklin Melby, actually created the device Edison couldn’t, an “Electoplasmic Valve,” a sort of Pandora’s box. The columnist, though, is a classic skeptic, even on the run, with Israeli spy Valli protecting him—and striving to get this “frivolous” man to take this all seriously.
Lefhans’s flipness keeps the adventure fun even as Frazell—and a pair of other perspective characters, separated from Lefhans’s account by years—is dead serious about the implications that all our fates hinge on the Valve … and that global chaos, environmental catastrophes, and the rise of fascism all have roots in Lefhans’s 2001. Frazell manages this narrative trick without cheapening the real-world roots of international crises. The Lefhans chapters can move so quickly that suspense and mystery don’t have space to develop fully, and the narratives-within-narratives result in some interruptions of momentum, but readers fascinated by conspiratorial alt-history noir will find much to love here.
Takeaway: This bold, playful thriller asks what if our world today is the dystopian future.
Great for fans of: Arthur Shattuck O'Keefe’s The Spirit Phone, Matt Ruff.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+