The pleasures of this crisply told page-turner come from O’Connor’s deft handling of reader expectations, especially as what Mason is facing seems connected to the highest echelons of global power. As Mason and intern Molly investigate, in brisk and tantalizing scenes, a secret society and the manipulation of dreams, on both sides of the Atlantic, seemingly nefarious political forces are keeping secrets: the U.K.’s home secretary monitors an experiment involving the brain waves of the comatose, and in Dallas a megachurch pastor turned senatorial candidate takes dark action when an investigative journalist starts asking tough questions about the Church of the Reformation.
Bursts of action, creepy rituals, head-spinning revelations, and intimations of the supernatural deliver genre thrills, while O’Connor smartly games out the impact these developments could have on fictional but plausible political situations. Planting mysteries enough for the series to come, O’Connor draws on UFO abduction lore (including weird implants), the alternate realities of cyberthrillers, and even fun cults-and-demons hokum to conjure a horror-tinged urban fantasy that does something rare: it truly surprises, especially as a mismatched group faces the Others and an impossible machine. Despite the swift pace, the book’s hefty length and sweeping plot is at times daunting, though the companionable characters help (especially techie Zach). A promising start to the series.
Takeaway: Creepy, ambitious thriller of conspiracies, other realities, and major surprises.
Comparable Titles: Paul Cornell, Charles Stross.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-