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Review: The Lever – Mark Salzwedel

The Lever - Mark Salzwedel

Genre: Sci-Fi

Reviewer: Ulysses, Paranormal Romance Guild

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About The Book

In the future, a reporter uncovers a plot to change the DNA of selected young adults, abduct them, and cover up evidence that they ever existed. Her investigation takes her and three gay soldiers to Mars and eventually to the other side of the galaxy, where any misstep they make could doom the human race.

The Review

I got really caught up in this eerie sci-fi adventure, set a couple of centuries in the future in a surprisingly normal USA…normal except for the striking level of technological interface that has become routine in people’s lives. 

The unexpected heroine of the story is, in her own words, a fat, black lesbian; an investigative journalist named Shonda Kinney. Shonda gets wind of a series of odd deaths associated with genetic engineering—something that can cure all sorts of genetically-linked diseases. As she starts digging into the mystery, she finds herself pursued by mysterious men in black. 

All of this sounds like what you might expect in a sci-fi thriller, except for the fact that alternating chapters are voiced from the perspective of a group of entities known as the C10, which are beings entirely composed of pure cybernetic energy (as near as I could understand). This group is very old, and continually explores the universe for new sources of energy and knowledge. We are told right from the start that the C10 is trying to decide what to do about the human race. 

Shonda Kinney finds herself in the middle of it. 

The four main characters in the story are Shonda, a young computer executive named Roger Hammersmith; a young Indian-American woman named Clarissa Vaas, and a Chinese-American college student named Ron Gao. Together they experience and adventure that challenges their understanding of the universe, and pushes the boundaries of their individual self-perception. 

For all that, it is not a terrifying book, nor a particularly violent once. It is intellectually curious, pulling the reader along as the characters become familiar and the puzzle of the C10’s purpose becomes ever more clear. I suppose this makes it a psychological thriller, but the author keeps the core humanity of the characters—especially the completely-unprepared-for-heroism Shonda Kinney—firmly at the forefront. 

There is as much wonder here as there is fear, and that careful mixture made this book a special read for me.

5 Stars.

The Reviewer

Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.

Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.

By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City. 

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