BOOK REVIEW A man stumbles into his grandfather’s world of spies and secrets in this novel. Stonemason Michael Colt lives in a cabin in the small town of Hungry Point on the Mississippi River. Michael’s grandfather Nick raised him from infancy after his parents died in a car accident. When Nick mysteriously vanished about 10 years ago, Michael took over the family masonry business and settled into a relationship with Sue Kick, his childhood friend. Michael’s current struggle involves finding a literary agent to help publish his manuscript, which features stories Nick told him as a boy. R. Lee, one agent, calls his work “a collection of drivel,” leaving Michael confounded by the cruelty. What Michael doesn’t realize is that Nick had been a member of the Office of Strategic Services, the United States intelligence agency that preceded the CIA. Some of Nick’s action-packed tales about a mysterious character called “the driver” contain classified information. Michael is dimly aware of his grandfather’s strange life based on the events leading up to his disappearance. And Michael, at the age of 15, found a corpse floating in the Mississippi. The body held a key, a photograph of a woman, and a notebook with pages missing. When similar events intrude on Michael’s adult life, he soon learns that Nick’s fate was intertwined with a top-secret scientific formula. Siwicki’s thoughtful, engaging thriller will remind genre fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series but with an SF touch. Siwicki begins with a philosophical essay on dreams that posits “We die when we sleep, and are re-born every time we wake.” From there, flashbacks to Michael’s teen years propel the compact series opener. The best prose comes from the driver’s exploits, as when “gunfire lit the tunnel like fireworks, and it cracked and echoed as an eruption of lead rained from the black car.” Michael’s search for a literary agent feels like an autobiographical insertion by the author, but Lee does prove necessary to the plot. Occasionally, characters soliloquize, which adds a campy tone. Several late-game twists promise to raise the stakes in the sequel.
This odd but effective marriage of thriller and SF should enamor both genres’ fans.
Ships of one form or another are perhaps what we think of when talk of traveling enters the conversation. How as a vessel what it is, how it operates, and where it originates? Perhaps when we hear the word ship most think of traveling on water, or remnants of extended memories of traveling by train, bus, car, or motorcycle. A vehicle with the first notion of flying may come in a dream, so perhaps it really happened, but you’re not sure because it’s a dream you’re having.
Every summer spent at my uncle’s place on one of his farms – he had three as I remember. There was a grass runway with three wooden frame hangars covered in corrugated tin. Sometimes, when fetching the cows for milking, I would slide open the doors and stare at the planes parked inside imaging flying one. On one exceedingly early occasion a guy who often helped my uncle, Moses was his name, asked if I’d like to go up in the plane with him. I jumped at the opportunity because for a ten-year kid on summer vacation this was one of those out of extra ordinary chances that spring out with only one answer. Yes!
“So, what’s your name?” Moses asked.
“I remember your dad working on the farm here when he was a kid like you, then I heard he joined the army, and was stationed somewhere in Europe.”
“That’s right, but I don’t remember anything about him, probably for that reason, him being sent to Europe. And I was born in Austria, where he met my mother while stationed there.”
“So, how do you like working on your uncle’s farm?”
“I don’t know much about farming, but I’m learning something new every day. I’d really like to learn about flying because it sounds a lot more interesting and fun than farming.”
“I remember a story about a pilot flying over a lake, looking down and seeing a boat with a man fishing, and thinking how nice it would be down there. And the fisherman looking up thinking how fantastic it would be up in a plane. Sometimes people want to always be somewhere else, I guess the same could be said about farming. Well, if you ever have any questions about planes or flying just ask.”
“Thanks, and when did you learn how to fly planes?”
“Oh, that’s a long story,” he said. “I flew planes in Europe. I’ll tell you more about it someday. As of now, and here, farmers hire me to fly over their farms for a visual check of their property, and if I see anything unusual, I convey that to them. I check fences, cattle, and it’s just great fun to get paid to fly.” Then he walked to the hangar door. “Give me a hand with the door.”
We pushed the door on the right, and I shoved open the one the left. Both rattling while squeaking open, kicking up dust from the dirt floor, some birds escaped, and I ducked after hearing them flap over my head. Moses laughed. “That happens every time, though seems appropriate, planes and birds flying. Well, there she is,” he said, and pointed to the well-aged, rugged, taildragger resting in the middle of the hangar waiting for us. “I guarantee it flies better than it looks.” There was a small gray Ford tractor with a mower to the right. “If you want a job, and know how to drive a tractor, you could mow the grass strip for us. I can show you how it needs to be done.”
He grabbed and pulled the chocks. “Get those over there and help me push her out.”
“Okay,” I said, and watched, then shadowed what he did. With one hand on the inside wing, the other one balancing on the fuselage, I leaned forward into the wing my shoes scraping and sliding on the ground kicking up more dirt. After getting it moving, the taildragger rolled easily. We got the plane out in the light, cleaned off, then Bill checked everything to make sure she was flight worthy.
“You’re sitting back her,” he gestured. “Put the seatbelt on, and don’t touch anything.” After I was in, he said, “Especially don’t touch that stick. It’ll be moving around, that’s how I’ll be controlling the elevator, ailerons, and rudder, so just sit back and enjoy the flight.”
“What kind of plane is this?”
“It’s a Piper PA-11.”
Before starting the engine, Moses went through a list saying out loud every line followed by the word check, then started the engine, taxied to the end of the field, turned looking over to make sure I’d done everything. “This is it, kid, here we go. Are you ready?”
“Yes,” I said, checking my seat belt, got comfortable, and gave a thumbs up.
The plane jerked forward slowly at first, our bodies moving in a similar fashion, then turned like a jack-knife, gaining momentum, tumbling over the grass strip. The faster we went the bumpier it got and felt like the machine was going to fall apart, then it was smooth, and finally we were airborne. I had never seen the trees, fields, and buildings from this perspective, everything got smaller. Bill would turn and smile occasionally and give me the thumbs up, waiting for me to do the same. The engine roar and wind made it virtually impossible to have a normal conversation without shouting, and I would scream, whoa, whenever the air would sock the bottom of the plane, or when he would bank so much my feet felt glued to the deck.
Being in someone else’s mind is not a battle for the faint of heart; it’s a war for control of their dreams. The clever player is nonchalant because with an unknown outcome, perception tricks the mind into believing reality and dreams are equal, but it’s far from true. The common fact is reality and dreams share the same senses whether awake or asleep, especially images that are misunderstood. Déjà vu is mysterious, has some meaning from a connection in time, but from a different realm. I remember sitting on my bike looking down the driveway at a small hill across the highway that had a path worn down from bikes that used it as a ramp. Usually, a friend would stand at the bottom of the driveway to signal when it was clear, and no cars or trucks were coming. I was alone this time, staring at the hill thinking to give it a try, fearless I headed down not paying attention to anything around me. When I was in the middle of the road I turned to the right and saw a car there, at that moment a strange thought went through my head, then I blasted up the hill and flew over the grassy ramp. I turned around watching a car driving away. I looked at my hands, touched my face, and took a deep breath. What just happened? Was there a car? It missed me.
Can I be young again? Since asking myself that question my life has never been the same. Human, alien, energy, space all filled with dreams words and notes from memories past and present building a convoluted record of stories collected over the years. All of this tells a story more complicated than anyone can imagine, especially if we believe it’s born from a notion and piece of cosmic puzzle.
Ask yourself what snowflakes are, or the stars, perhaps the moon. Are they simply lights and cosmic decoration that cause confusion or a systematic form of clarity? Thoughts are written with sparse facts to create a loose narrative to ask or answer mystifying questions. The single most asked question or thought of wonder we all ask ourselves is – what happens after we die. We know or are told from who raised us that we grow inside a woman, and now some humans now are grown in a laboratory test tubes. When we die are we reincarnation, reformed and returned to from whence we came. Round and round, born innocent, with or without power, knowing nothing, learning everything we think we understand. I must say, I forget moments and things, but also recall special specific experiences from the past, dreams, and memories with wonder. I can never answer the question why.
As I read a book, newspaper, or article online, I know that information ends up somewhere in my memory. Memory is a vast universe of light, darkness, ice and fire, all connected by thoughts shared verbally or by written words and symbols in many different languages. Games are created using this knowledge for entertainment, prediction, deduction, and eventually control. A question can shape what we believe, how we gather information, then gain knowledge to experience and recall a lifetime of memories to share. In the end there is only the end, but perhaps, if you are religious, as far as we know even the end may be temporary. The wonder of how knowledge accumulates and is shared. This continues by looking at the beginning which usually starts with identifying, naming, solving the obvious, or creating practices to understand the unknown. As we all head on our journey on our individual odyssey using certain guiding principles with collective responsibility, it seems the vision of the few is clear, but muddled for most others. We create our own universe as we imagine planets and stars in the welkin, and our own solar system of life friends and relatives connected by stories, memories, and dreams.
Then there are anointed prophets who engage in rigorous challenges employing and maximizing equitable skills. Blending commitment, utilizing discipline to engage dynamic changes to enrich themselves, and other inhabitants to some or a lesser degree. A taste of knowledge or an experience normally unavailable is shared only leaving enough for most, and a few hungry for more still searching for the missing link of human existence. Back to the question I need to cover before I get to an answer, or at least start since it’s a topic so vast, and the part of this universe that belongs to you and me alone. Where is your piece of space, do you understand the value of it, where do you belong, and when will you know you’re there?
There are always individuals who lead citizens with inspirational awareness that we write off as genius as they create and shape the future. It seems benefits from these wise profits filter down and through with assets brought to the table on a first come first serve charge, slowly trickling to the vulnerable at a snail’s pace. Who are they and where do these individuals come from? Once a voice blurted out don’t tell them anything, treat them like mushrooms, keep them in the dark. Where was this voice from, I wondered, and who was the voice speaking to? Is that why most people are lost, clueless on history, and just chasing shadows.
Then a blast from nowhere with news repeating, blowing like wind. Reporters echo stories of the mystery similar to continuous bell ringing, echoing waves and vibrations out to all occupants of the world including birds, animals, insects and people. Whipping them into a frenzied reactional behavior, leaving the normal routine functional services stunned. All life and people lost, searching for leadership, not knowing where to go, what to do, or even to understand the events happening.
Events that happened changed all things dramatically from the moment after walking near the river with Sue during school summer vacation. Starting with seeing a floating hulk of something in the middle of the river, then raising the courage to swim out and check, finding, it was the body of a man. More startling is discovering the man was known to my grandfather when I told him about it. And rifling through the dead man’s pockets coming across the notebook and key. Asking Poppi about the amulet he gave me, how it would glow when I held it.
Otto Vortich, hounding me through dimensions to get the notebook with the formula to make amulets for time travel, along with the people I met, like the professor, and Luke Paris, who devised the formula. The research center, RIM (Responsive Integrated Machines) where Sue worked, after finding out that her biological father was Otto Vortich. The room where the little kid, stood guarding the paintings of – The Tribe – and where I read the names of the ten W-IX, (World Nine). Nine because each took a turn in the center of RIM STONE leaving nine outside, Epag, Cadra, Abo, Gohl, Morana, Osrar, Tura, Uzura, Yapiz, and Ralk.
Ralk took his turn to control the W-IX at the time of FRAHAZ, the last time when they all gathered in the center of RIM STONE. Leaving their dominion weakened, to share moral conscience, thought, stability, power. Power, and control of time itself.
Separation from time long gone, never returned, tick-tock never repeated its own motion. And how can this be? Who created time? How do you return a thought, a smile, a gentle touch? All valuable and minor reaction it some way, priceless, unique beyond any comprehension, even though we try, do not understand any of it. Pictures connected to stories, sounds that whisper sounds of love, sleep taking us to another world where possibilities are endless. Walking through a park, a store, airport as planes fly overhead. I have a craving for popcorn and get out of my seat and go to the concession counter. Following the guide lights on the floor, a dream, then I open my eyes. Looking around see I’m in an old shed that was used for storage. The door is cracked open a bit, blocked from closing by the snow collecting on the ground. I walk over, push it open, and look in the distance watching the snow fall and drift on the wind. The sky azure blue, and the air cold, a world passing, seasons changing, the sun warming my face, then suddenly I’m in a house. I walk up the steps to the room at the top of the stairs and open the door–I am born.
Human, alien, energy, space all filled with dreams, words and notes from memories past and present, building a convoluted record of stories collected over the years. It tells a story more complicated than one can imagine especially if it’s born from a notion and piece of puzzle. Ask yourself what snowflakes are, stars, the moon, could it simply be lights and decoration that cause confusion or a systematic form of clarity. Thoughts written with sparse facts to create a loose narrative to ask or answer mystifying questions. The single most asked question or thought of wonder we all ask ourselves is – what happens after we die. We know or are told from who created us that we grow inside a woman, some humans now are grown in a laboratory test tubes. Also, where do we go when we die, reincarnation, reform and returned to from whence we came, round and round. Born innocent, without power, knowing nothing, learning everything we understand. I must say, I forget some things, but recall specific experiences from the past and wonder why.
I started writing a screen for my second book -AWAKE ASLEEP DREAMING DEAD- with FADE-IN, a fantastic software for screenplay writing. Here is a taste-
FADE IN: INT./EXT. HUGE HOUSE-FULL MOON EVENING A car horn wails repeatedly, then gets louder. Famous reclusive architect Alan Rogers gets out of bed, looks out the third floor window of the manor he built in the hollow countryside, and sees headlights from a car driving up the the country driveway. The cars stops in front of the house. The car horn continues to wail. He heads downstairs, opens the door to silhouettes of two people standing next to the car. Blinded by the light he lifts his hand over his eyes. ALAN ROGERS Hello? (confused) FADE TO: EXT.ROCK QUARRY-EARLY MORNING Years later, wide view of a rock quarry with the sound of a car engine, then a car drives by. INT./EXT. VERY EARLY MORNING – INSIDE A MOVING CAR SAM YOUNG, 35, photographer, hired by Architectural Magazine is driving to photograph the house of a well-known missing architect, Alan Rogers, who disappeared without a trace. SAM YOUNG I’ve got to make a pit stop pretty soon. (tired,brooding)
The engine humming, radio playing at an ear-spitting volume, as the driver, Sam Young, shifts gears, the car climbs and makes its way down and through narrow valley country roads. Driving through corn fields and pastures on either side, with woods in the distance under a blue cloudy sky. SAM YOUNG
Damn, I’m gonna fly off the road! (closes and opens his eyes after a moment) He downshifts into 2ND gear. His eyes dart from the road to the red-lining-tachometer.