Captain Martin Williams is a soldier who is used to playing his hunches. Most of the time they come off and he’s gained a reputation as a skilled leader of men. Now his bosses in the Pentagon have discovered that the Russians have psychic soldiers and have determined that Williams’ innate supernatural abilities make him the perfect man to take charge of their new unit called Theta Force. “This is a mental arms race,” a five-star general tells him. But it isn’t just the Russian unit, Psychotronic Division One, that have other-worldly powers. Ari Mann is a brilliant businessman who can seemingly beat the markets through his own intuitions or could it be via the guidance of his associates who may have links to supposed “enlightened masters”? As the Russian’s star psychic, the teenager Nastassia Slayevsky, is sent to the USA on a mission, Theta Force’s best female agent Seana Moon is urged to use both her feminine and preternatural attributes to unlock Mann’s secrets. While the US and Russian spies engage in paranormal espionage the real psychic power players lurk in the shadows waiting to reveal their earth shattering secrets.
THE MESSAGE is Bill Harvey’s latest book in his “Agents of Cosmic Intelligence” saga. This novel is set in the very near future but the series encompasses a cosmic and eternal time frame, moving backwards and forwards through the ages. As he writes, “[the series] emerges from a unique viewpoint in which science and religion meld into a singular explanation that makes each person a vital part of the greatest real-life adventure in existence.” For the most part, THE MESSAGE is an entertaining, occasionally cerebral, sci-fi thriller that investigates ideas of religion and cosmic consciousness via the tropes of a fairly conventional conspiracy laced spy drama. As the novel progresses the plot expands to incorporate some of the author’s wilder ideas. By the time Adolf Hitler and a spaceship appear more traditional spy thriller fans may be deciding to bail out. For those that stick around, THE MESSAGE races through to a satisfying ending that sets up the next books in the series.
Harvey is a capable writer, able to transmit complex ideas in a clear, concise manner. The action sequences are well handled and the explanation of the psychic prowess of his leads is generally satisfying and certainly convinces within the world he has created. Less successful is his handling of the two main female characters. Seana is the target of unwanted attention from many of the male characters, often in uncomfortably lecherous incidents that seem quite unnecessary to the plot. Despite frequently demonstrating a strength of character more than equal to her male counterparts she becomes strangely passive when forced to endure unwanted attention including a couple of instances of aggressive “dirty dancing” and being bound naked to a bed and almost raped. The other main female lead, Natasha, is equally problematic. Though a teenager, she is sixteen but looks older, she is sexualized by her handlers, and in effect by Harvey, who labors to explain how seductive and irresistible she is. Though ultimately the women enact a kind of justice, the hint of misogyny in numerous passages describing their looks and their treatment seem gratuitous and do little in terms of scene setting or plot dynamics.
Bill Harvey’s THE MESSAGE is an entertaining and thought provoking sci-fi thriller that’s idiosyncratic and brimming with unconventional ideas. It works as a perfect stand-alone taster for the “Agents of Cosmic Intelligence” series, of which it is a part.
~Kent Lane for IndieReader