Daclaxvia: Nascent follows the three Manstead siblings and their dealings with angels and demons across the world (and out of it). First, there's Max, the genius, estranged, eldest child, an avowed atheist who is found wanting. Then there's Mark, the middle child who becomes one of the first Nascent-capable, Augmented Intelligence humans but is ambivalent in his faith. Finally, Meghan, the baby of the family, is the bleeding heart Christian who puts off university for missions work.
Part of the description is spot on--'Frank Peretti (This Present Darkness) meets C.S. Lewis (The Space Trilogy), "sci-fi-turns-spiritual" drama' fits this first novel well. On this count of premise and concept, it delivers. Like Peretti's work, angels and demons are physically present and active in the world--they inhabit other dimensions of the universe, but interact with humans via a fifth dimension that intersects with our world at various points. Cliffson then layers this with a Singularity-type concept of merging tech and DNA which turned out to be very intriguing, as well as disturbing. Cliffson presents it with all the related moral ambiguity, starting out with enhanced humans and ending with spiritual and ethical dilemmas of using (or misusing) such tech. (What, then, is a soul?)
Unfortunately, "heart-pounding" and "breathless" is the farthest away from this book that you can get. The entire novel is made up of infodumps interspersed with flashbacks, and a little bit of current action. This makes it super hard to get through and, honestly, a little difficult to understand. If you're not already a science geek (I'm not), you'll probably get very turned around halfway as to what on earth the dimensional and genetic stuff is actually supposed to do or mean. I can't actually decide whether this book was a little too hard-science for my taste (I've been known to skip technical descriptions in hard sci-fi books but still enjoy the story) or whether it really wasn't that technical, but just the way it was written made it confusing (it's not exactly handwaviumish enough to count as space opera-type soft sci-fi).
There's little in the way of organic character development. You're presented with a character doing something or facing an epiphany of sorts, and then there's a backstory infodump to tell you why the character is struggling with that (or not) and then it all moves along. The dialogue is often stilted and relies on a lot of repetition, which goes something like this:
A says, "such-and-such revelation."It's very exhausting to read.
Random confusion/flashback/infodump, including maybe a side-track from the conversation.
B replies, "Wait, so you mean such-and-such?"
A (or someone else in the scene) confirms it, often by repeating it.
Being... Christian fiction, it does cover quite explicitly Christian faith issues plus conversion stories. This may be a plus or minus point depending on your own personal views. There's the usual appearance of Christian "relics", though not quite the holy grail.
Reading this would really be more for Cliffson's take on the Singularity, genetics, and multiple dimensions--plus the coming apocalypse--in an alternate world where faith really is by seeing. Though I guess if you really like very exposition-y books you may like this one.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author as part of a review programme. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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