I was given a free (digital) copy of this book in exchange for a review.
Niall Kearey is a Major in the US Air Force; he's also a psychic with the ability to mentally travel to a planet called Astereal. Astereal is a doomed planet - being surrounded by seven black holes isn't exactly a healthy environment for a civilisation. Astereal is also simultaneously a peaceful, but belligerent planet - on the one hand, crime is low, but there is an ongoing war between two species. The story is set both on Earth and Astereal, guiding us through Kearey's journey to becoming a powerful psychic and saviour of the Astereans.
This book reads like a Dan Brown novel. Unfortunately I really
dislike Dan Brown novels…
My initial thoughts on the writing was actually quite positive - the prose is continuous and not at all jarring as it can be with debut authors. I was thrown by the amount of military jargon flung about in the first few chapters of the book though. Despite the positive start, my thoughts on the book steadily declined.
The writing did nothing to stir feelings for the characters and the Astereans. The characters go through some pretty emotional stuff in this book, but I felt completely disconnected and more like an observer rather than someone drawn into the book. This was mainly due to the author's focus on the pace of the story rather than the world she'd created.
I realised very early on in the book that the descriptions of the Astereal and its people were very vague. In general the world building is very poor - I know very little of Asterean culture, architecture, history, their planet etc. This extends to parts of the story on Earth too - very little description is given to the surroundings and the characters. For example, the reader only finds out that one of the Asterean species have square pupils only 80% of the way through the book!
In all honesty though the writing wasn't too big of a problem for me to deal with. The science, however, is something else entirely. Kearey is a psychic so most of the science was what one would call "pseudoscience", but with some Physics and Geology thrown into the mix too. I found the "science" confusing and quite difficult to understand. I'm not a Geology graduate, so I could make neither head nor tails of the Geology terminology - to be frank, I'm not even sure how many of the terms were actually real. I am, however, a Theoretical Physics graduate, so a review of the Physics is something hard to resist.
First, how far are the black holes from Astereal? Being close to just one black hole would make any sort of intelligent life impossible, let alone seven! Astereal's sun has also managed to retain its planet - with seven black holes it's quite an exceptional feat to hold on to a stable, predictable orbit. Time also runs at a different pace on Astereal, which is, in fact, a legitimate piece of Physics. However, I'm not sure if this pacing was due to time dilation or some other pseudoscientific reason. If it is from time dilation, then the author has massively abused the theory of General Relativity.
There are some good ideas contained within this novel (e.g. the anthropology experiment), but this isn't enough for me to pick up the next book. At one point I just wanted to give up reading the book and it was only obligation that got me to complete it. My advice is that if you like your science fiction hard and want meticulously detailed worlds then avoid this book.