Reviewed by: Pete Barber
Genre: Science Fiction
Approximate word count: 45,000-50,000 words
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Mike Pomery lives in Australia. Tangent is his first published work.
Set in 2051, a future world where humanity’s every material need is supplied by advanced technology, and all human indulgences such as drinking, smoking, driving, even reading books are forbidden--a boring world. Sixty-five-year-olds are subject to compulsory synthetic upgrade, which offers eternal youth but comes at the price of losing one’s sense of humanity. Upgraded humans are shipped off into the stars to do menial labor for the governing organization.
Alan Febras dreads this fate, and when he is offered an alternative—to shift into a parallel universe and be reborn as ‘himself’ again, younger, and living in a free world—he takes the chance.
What’s not to like about this premise? “Old Man’s War” meets “Back to the Future.”
The making of Alan’s decision was compelling reading—after all, this was a one-way ticket (Alan’s body would be incinerated after he went into the parallel universe), and there was no way to guarantee that the shift worked—no peephole into the other universe was available. The author had me hooked: would I risk a chance of doing it all over again (but with all my life’s knowledge retained?) or would I take the soft option of guaranteed continued life as a human version of myself that didn’t feel quite ‘alive’?
Well, Alan chooses to take a risk, and I enjoyed going along for the ride
Dropped back into his ‘old’ life in 2012, he is determined not to waste time again. Not to make the same mistakes of working too much and neglecting his beautiful wife.
The author had me fully engaged with Alan’s reinvented self. He made superb observations about how modern life separates us from the ‘real’ world, and nature, and our souls. He had me promising myself to take a walk in the woods the next day (I did), and buy my wife some flowers (that too)--because, wasn’t I guilty of the same neglect?
But then, inexplicably, the story spiraled down some kind of rabbit hole that I simply didn’t understand. Alan discards the determination to hold onto his new life—to do it better this time around. He dismisses the reasons the author had so beautifully laid out for taking this great risk and for changing how he lives his second chance. And for the last third of the story, I couldn’t for the life of me fathom what the heck was going on. I started to skip reading large sections of (what appeared to me) gratuitous internal thinking and incomprehensible dream sequences.
And then it ended. Oh, well—great premise, incompletely realized.
English (Australian) spelling. A few typos, but nothing to distract the reader.
Rating: *** Three stars