Verdict: A twist on the classic good vs. evil space drama, EPHAIDRIA could be accused of being too obvious, but the characters shine, the magic takes off and human extinction is on the horizon.
A memorably geeky work of space-based sci-fi, EPHAIDRIA is a magic-laden adventure set – eventually – on four interlinking worlds making up a far off alien universe in which humans aren’t all that. In fact, our species is dying, but in possession of an array of borderline-magical powers amongst its bright surviving members. Those developing powers give the survivors the rudimentary tools with which to fight off their seemingly inevitable demise.
Put together by an Emmy Award winning photographic director in Jim Greico, the book takes regular surreal turns, but remains accessible through its colorful mixed characterizations. The lead characters are nicely atypical heroes, at times awkward and at others brashly unpredictable, and each has their own distinctive voice. Nicki is a talented musician, a little stuffy and nervous and disturbed by what goes on in her head. Josh is the classic geek, albeit with an outward-leaning personality and a social media obsession. Teej is more formal, slightly disconnected from modern reality and awkward with it, used to structure and drive. Suki is the airy-fairy, hippie type.
That combination, naturally, regularly sees characters world views jar, and for all the quirks of setting and plotline that exist here, the play-off between the four in a speech-dominated text is easily the strength of Greico’s offering, as their relations seem to weave around each other and distort their various outlooks. A series of odd connections run through the book: a subtle drawing together of those key characters through life links and almost psychic mental gymnastics. As their lives head on a collision course, the main events that are to form the book’s darker corners slowly appear over the the horizon.
From an opening chapter involving the strange technical – and literal – meltdown of a computer game, the undertones of other-worldliness slowly develop until they’re at the very heart of the plot. By the time the space ships, surreal species and alien armies descend on the plot, the human ‘specimens’ are developed enough to hold their own, yet easy to root for. The change in direction, when it comes, is swift and all encompassing. The obvious criticism here is in the tropes: while EPHAIDRIA has its moments – including some great wit – the themes owe a lot to a mish-mash of other common concepts of the genre, and a lot of what comes up is not particularly new. The flip side is that the concepts are presented well and colorfully shaded in with those vivid personalities.
The most memorable pages are saved for the conclusion. We won’t ruin that for potential readers, apart from to say that it’s a testament to Greico’s nuance. EPHAIDRIA, though, won’t be for everyone, nor will it fly to the top of the sales charts, but it is a strong and smartly constructed example of the space based good vs. evil theme.
~James Hendicott for IndieReader