One of the reasons I like reading and writing science fiction is how well the genre plays with others. Create a interesting futuristic setting, on Earth or somewhere in space, and there are any number of story types — mystery, thriller, romance, action/adventure, etc. — that can be told, separately or blended together.
The excellent first entry of the Transcendence Trilogy, Second Chance by Dylan Hearn (@HearnDylan) is a political/conspiracy thriller wrapped around a mystery, seasoned with some philosophy and served with a side of plot twists. I was guessing about how the various pieces of the puzzle fit together right up to the final pages. Book 2 is already on my To-Read List.
Set an unspecified time in the future, the Earth has faced catastrophic upheavals including climate change but emerged more unified thanks to a historical agreement among world leaders brokered by the UN. Even the inevitability of death can be avoided thanks to the Re-Life process.
The story is told in alternating chapters from the perspective of four different characters: a politician, an investigator, an “information cleanser” (a chilling concept, this job mixes marketing, public relations, data analysis, intelligence gathering and hacking), and a Re-Life technician. On the night the politician is elected, a university student goes missing, an event that somehow connects the main characters.
There isn’t much more that can be said about the plot without spoiling things for future readers. The story moves quickly and I thought the narrative structure, dividing the story between the various characters, worked very well. There was some overlap and time-shifting, which wasn’t immediately apparent, but personally I liked the “ah-ha!” feelings when those moments were revealed or I figured them out.
Mr. Hearn paints a fascinating picture of the future, loaded with technology and thought-provoking concepts such as “information cleansing” mentioned above. People ride in driverless “pods” programmed to not hit each other and wear special lenses to access the Datasphere, which is what the internet evolved into. Politics is driven more than ever by polls; a pending law would toss from office elected officials with low numbers. The investigator works for a “for profit” private agency, so any infraction of the law discovered during an investigation, no matter how minor, is prosecuted to help pad the bottom line.
Second Chance has a setting rich with small details, unique and well-developed characters, and a central mystery with some truly surprising plot twists. I enjoyed it greatly and look forward to continuing the story with the middle book of the trilogy.
For more about Mr. Hearn and his writing, check out his blog.