The Ophelia Prophecy
Back in the 70s, the popular TV show The Six Million Dollar Man began with the phrase, “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. . . Better than he was before. Better…stronger…faster.” This novel takes a look at what happens when we go down the path of rebuilding humanity.
When soldiers could no longer wreak the destruction sought by their governments, improvements were made. A race of superior fighters called the Manti were spliced together in a petri dish. Mutant humans with insect-like abilities, they were bred for battle, a fact that wound up working against their creators. Twenty-five years ago they declared war on the genetically pure. And they won. Now, those purely human exist in only one place, a city deep in the desert called Sanctuary. To leave it is death because outside its walls the Manti rule supreme.
When Sanctuary archivist Asha awakens scantily dressed in a pool of water she searches desperately for memories of how she got there. Her last recollection is of the words “Sleep, Ophelia” but she has access to little information beyond that. A masculine moan makes her aware she is not alone and she quickly discovers that she is outside the city limits with one of them – the Manti. Asha immediately attempts an escape but of course it is futile. She is quickly captured and dragged onto the man’s ship.
Pax has no recollection of how he wound up beside the beautiful human woman but he does know he can’t just let her go back to her city. Humans aren’t allowed outside Sanctuary’s walls and this lone woman has some explaining to do as to just how the two of them came to be in that pool of water. Taking her with him on his ship could prove dangerous, though. Not only are the two enemies but it is a time in her cycle when she is sending off strong pheromones and he, with his animal senses, can smell the potent scent in a way no human man could. He can feel his body tuning to hers. More than just a desire for mating, tuning triggers empathy and protective instincts. Fortunately, his sister is on board the ship as well and is bound to keep him from falling too deeply for this femme fatale. He will take her back to his people and see just what she knows under interrogation.
Then his well laid plans are thwarted when his journey home includes spotting a ship that has been missing for weeks. Launching a rescue mission turns out to be a mistake when they are attacked by a savage group of humans. It seems the folks in Sanctuary aren’t the only human survivors of the war! The trio are quickly taken hostage. While Asha is treated like an honored, if suspicious guest, Pax and his sister are clearly prisoners, marched straight to a rudimentary but effective cell. When a decision by the humans forces Pax and his sister into the role of heroes the situation seems to reverse. Or has it? In a world where nothing should be taken at first glance, Pax and Asha quickly find themselves on an adventure that will redefine reality as they know it.
I loved Ghost Planet, Ms. Fisher’s first novel, and like that book this one has a lot to offer. Especially notable is the world building. The novel takes a very realistic view at what happens when man tampers with DNA to create their own ”monsters”. I was fascinated too by what was happening around Asha and Pax. It is clear they are involved in something much bigger than either of them understands and joining them as they chase down the clues to just what that is was a lot of fun. I loved Pax’s ship and the discovery of the second group of survivors. The secondary characters, especially the priest, were absolutely wonderful.
The main characters are well developed also. I especially liked Pax, an alpha warrior who is an amazingly decent guy. Throughout the book as new and surprising pieces of information were thrown at him he was able to adjust his world view and become a real champion for the underdog. Very cool. I also appreciated that while he was willing to lead, he was also willing to follow and he was quite willing to give up his ancestral throne if it meant being with the heroine. Too often in science fiction romance alpha males are arrogant jerks or peaceniks and it was refreshing to see a character who was fully rounded.
In fact, my only real complaint with the book is the romance. I just didn’t understand what, besides hormones, drew Asha and Pax together. I didn’t feel the deep personal connection between the two that I felt between the characters in Ghost Planet . This may be a case of raised expectations working against the author. The brilliant job she did in her first novel may have led me to wish for too much in this one. Regardless of the reason the love story between Asha and Pax just didn’t grab me quite as much as I’d hoped.
But as a science fiction novel this book works very, very well. A fascinating world peopled by interesting characters makes it a read worth picking up. I especially enjoyed the hopeful vibe I received from the book; too often in science fiction we expect the worst from our future. This book serves as a reminder that good people are always out there if we just look for them.