Mad leaders, AIs, Nostradamus, numerology, the ancient secret history of the brain, militaries scrambling for a potential World War 3: Pandemonium lives up to its title, moving fast, continually raising the stakes, and never settling into predictability as the story romps from a Middle East in turmoil to the White House Situation Room to the hot tubs of Theta Force. The pleasures of Harvey’s sprawling novel rise from its cheerful abundance, its gush of ideas, puzzles, and even jokes—one of the best, pranking on the habitual horniness of thriller narrators, finds Templegard using the technique of erotic fantasizing to keep psychics from reading his mind.
Lovers of thrillers that move fast, take bold risks, and have lots on their minds will relish the ensuing chaos—and the revelation of a greater threat, the brain-sabotaging Rebels, whose infiltration of the U.S. has been extensive. Pandemonium gets wilder as it goes, with international romance and a savvy sense of how media shapes minds, nations, and history—at its heart pulses perhaps the greatest conspiracy theory in human history.
Takeaway: This inventive and epic psychic thriller finds the world facing war and an ancient brain conspiracy.
Great for fans of: Neal Stephenson, Dan Simmons’s Carrion Comfort.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A
Pandemonium is the second book Bill Harvey has written for his Agents of Cosmic Intelligence saga. Planned to come 13th in the finished series, it’s a science fiction spy thriller with deep metaphysical undertones where the future of humankind is at stake.
Set in the near future, Earth is on the verge of a third world war after a “psychic monster” in the form of a charismatic terrorist takes over Iran, planning eventually to rule the world. Complicating matters is an unhinged United States president who seizes control of the country and pushes the world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon with an insane agenda.
As tensions escalate, two psychic soldiers — Ed Templegard, an operative in America’s top secret psychic paramilitary group Theta Force, and Nastassia Slayevsky, Russia’s most powerful psychic, only 17 years old — join forces in an attempt to save the world from an ancient enemy that has been lurking in the shadows for millennia.
Fueled by brilliantly insightful scientific speculation — such as augmented reality advertisements known as “hallucinads” and cutting-edge marketing devices known as “Gibsons” that blur the lines between reality and virtual reality—the meticulously described science fiction backdrop is an undeniable strength. The power of this story, however — the rich fusion of concepts, prophetic world-building and intricate plotlines — is also a weakness: Readers could become overwhelmed by the complexity of Harvey’s “intertwined nitroglycerine puzzle” of invading aliens, Nazi conspiracies, robotic doppelgängers, psychic soldiers, doomsday devices, Lucifer and a philosophy revolving around the One Consciousness, the early psychics’ concept of God.
Some readers might experience this as a convoluted, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink novel while others might enjoy the labyrinthine plotting and visionary science fiction conceptualizations.
This thick narrative full of big ideas is recommended for deep readers who enjoy their literary fare on the mind-bending and thought-provoking side.
Save the World as We Know It in This Terrifying Metaphysical Joyride
What’s the difference between science fiction and fantasy?
This discussion is one that’s still in progress — and probably will be for some time to come — so the boundaries aren’t clearly marked. The one thing however that many seem to agree on is that possibility — that is whether the elements of the novel could conceivably come to pass — is a major determining factor. Science fiction explores what is possible (even if it’s improbable), while fantasy explores the impossible. As Ray Bradbury put it, “Science fiction is really sociological studies of the future, things that the writer believes are going to happen by putting two and two together, it’s a logical projection.”
This logical projection is exactly what author Bill Harvey does (to a frightening degree) in his recent novel Pandemonium, second in his Agents of Cosmic Intelligence saga. Set in the near future, Earth is on the verge of a third world war after a “psychic monster” in the form of a charismatic terrorist takes over Iran, planning eventually to rule the world. Complicating matters is an unhinged United States president, who seizes control of the country and pushes the world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon with an insane agenda.
PLENTIFUL AND ACCURATE PROJECTIONS OF THE FUTURE
As tensions escalate, two psychic soldiers — Ed Templegard, an operative in America’s secret psychic paramilitary group, Theta Force, and Nastassia Slayevsky, Russia’s most powerful 17 year old psychic — join forces in an attempt to save the world from an ancient threat that has been biding its time for millennia.
Pandemonium’s biggest strength lies in its plentiful and accurate projections for the future. While the future in Pandemonium is bleak, each element of the world is conceivable both in terms of technology and the sociology behind the ways in which it has evolved. Augmented reality advertisements known as “hallucinads” line every street-corner and billboard while “Gibsons” — marketing devices that blur the lines between reality and the virtual world — are an everyday part of the average citizen’s life.
The inspiration behind these technological advancements are all born from trends we can see in society today, and will have readers thinking long after they close the book. Commentary on ideas such as increasingly intrusive advertisements and society’s disturbing reliance on rose-tinted glasses and escape from the real-world comes through loud and clear while still managing to not come off as pushy or on-the-nose.
ENTERTAINING YET THOUGHT-PROVOKING
On a similar note, the sheer number of concepts and plot lines Harvey seamlessly weaves into the nearly 500 pages is impressive. Fans of everything from theology to aliens, nazis to robots, and psychic powers, shared consciousness and Lucifer himself will find something that speaks to them in this book. Many authors often fall into the trap of trying to cram too much ambition into one project, making for a jumbled mess of half-baked content. Harvey deftly executes each plotline he introduces in an entertaining yet thought-provoking manner that readers of all varieties will love.
While science-fiction can often feel intimidating due to the intricacy and complexity that go hand in hand with the genre, readers need not feel this way with Pandemonium, as within its pages there is something for everyone.
Pandemonium: Live to All Devices by Bill Harvey is spellbinding science fiction with a strong appeal to fans of espionage. In the near future, the world is threatened by a third world war. Perse is an insane terrorist, a dangerous psychic, who has taken over power in Iran and he plans to take control of the entire world. Meanwhile, an equally insane president in the US seizes full control of power in the US, including its missiles, the banking system, the power grid, and electronic devices. A robotic replica of the president sits at the presidency while he hides in a bunker that is nuke-proof. The tension grows by the minute and as the nuclear apocalypse becomes impending, two psychic soldiers become the hope of humanity — Ed Templegard, who discovered his psychic powers when assigned to spy on the U.S. paramilitary psychic team, Theta Force, and seventeen-year-old Nastassia Slayevsky, the best psychic soldier in Russia. With mounting tension across different parts of the world, can these two psychic warriors stop the worst from befalling the Earth?
Deftly plotted and expertly executed, Pandemonium: Live to All Devices contains all the elements that readers look for in good SF. The characters are larger-than-life, robust, and believable; the prose is gorgeous and littered with vivid descriptions and captivating dialogues. The author creates a world in which science has evolved greatly, with artificial reality permeating almost every aspect of human life, especially the area of advertisement. The author creates neologisms such as “hallucinads” to describe the virtual experience in a science-driven setting. The conflict is stunningly imagined and wonderfully written, and it reads like a warning of what could happen if nuclear power falls into the wrong hands. This immersive tale features all forms of characters mixed in the fray — psychic enemies, Nazis, and a despotic US president who seems to care only about himself. Brimming with social and political commentaries, this science fiction re-examines the geopolitical crisis that punctuates the life of the world and communicates a warning of where we might be headed in the near future. It is a cleverly written novel that entertains readers while provoking reflection in them, a dazzling SF with an explosive conflict and characters that are unforgettable, as delightful as any good book should be.