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The God Wave
by Patrick Hemstreet
Harper Voyager, $24.99, 384 pp
Published: May 2016

This is, as the jacket blurb assures us, a very good debut book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Chuck is a genius neuroscientist who has an idea about how one might access more of one’s brain.  Matt is a brilliant mathematician who thinks he may have the missing ingredient to make Chuck’s process work.  Together they create their own company to market a most remarkable process:  activating more of the human brain.  The process will allow a human brain to externally direct mechanical processes – at the speed of thought.  The applications are almost unlimited.

Chuck is all about using the process to better mankind with medical, scientific and security applications.  Matt is much more concerned about the profitability of the process and he can’t imagine a better partner – with deep pockets – than the US military.  This puts the partners very much at odds.  Chuck has to acknowledge that the capital now available to the infant company is more than he dreamed of and the contract with the secret military agency has assured him that he can still pursue civilian applications.  The contract also assures Chuck and his test subjects that the military is only interested in using the process for benign purposes like exploration and rescue.  But the more the military takes over both the facility and its human resources, the more suspicious the team becomes; all except Matt who continues to believe what he’s told by the military.

Chuck’s process works phenomenally well on a small group of volunteers:  a mechanical engineer, a robotics genius, and a computer/graphics expert.  Their successes are mind-boggling.   And they are the ones co-opted by the military to teach the process to their own people.  They also want the robotic technology to build their own.  Both Matt and Chuck develop an interest in a slightly different application and keep their pet projects somewhat secret; thereby dividing the teams and producing a less-than-sharing work environment.  Chuck is working with an artist – something that Matt derided as being less-than-useful.  Matt is working with a martial artist who experiments with externally controlling a robot to move like her.  This is what really intrigues the military – drone robots. 

But when the team starts to see the new robots developed by the military and distrusts their intentions, they decide a little late-night skulking at the military facility might give them some answers.  What they discover is worse than they imagined but it seems impossible to pull out of the contract and stop.  The teams break off into two and each handles the crisis a little differently; putting Chuck at odds with his partner.  Matt is torn between his greed for the military contract and his loyalty to Chuck.

The most fun in the book was watching the progression of each of the test subjects in their area of expertise.  The graphic artist was able to mentally control the pixels in a monitor.  The martial artist was able to move a robot with her mind and not just move – but move like a martial artist.  The mechanical engineer was able to move any mechanical device with his mind.  And the more experienced they got, the more they found they could do.  But, as it turned out, the artist actually provided the most astonishing application.

I thought the plot was superb and well-executed, something you rarely see done so well in a debut novel.  The characters were very well-drawn and motivated.  My biggest complaint – and I was very loud – was the end of the book.  It’s a cliff-hanger so obviously they are banking on at least one more book.  His website makes no mention of his intentions.  But I’m all for it, bring it on!     ~~ Catherine Book

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