Welcome to the life of John Numen. A life of scientific wonders, limitless financial success, bold choices, and tragic losses. John’s scientific acumen is matched only by his gift for making money. And, as he pushes the boundaries of modern chemistry and molecular biology to places once thought impossible, he will take the first step on a path that pits his decades-long master plan against the vagaries of fate, circumstance, and the catastrophic choices of others. But that doesn’t matter. No. When your endgame is immortality, the rules are quite different.
The Apotheosis is a science fiction story about ambition, pride, and loss — one that charts the arc of one remarkable man’s life and the endless spiraling consequences that emerge from a single choice.
If you’re going to spend 300 pages with one character, that character better be damned intriguing, and thankfully, Numen does fit the bill. Granted, until a hundred pages in, John was basically a Mary Sue (handsome, rich, brilliant, charming, successful, a great cook), but a sinister twist suddenly imbues him with depth and tangibility. He goes from being a vaguely interesting blank slate to a protagonist worth investing in, whether you like him or not.
John inhabits a slowly-changing but well-constructed world throughout the years. We see both his efforts to keep up and the ways in which he falls behind, which feels more realistic than characters who simply adapt effortlessly to new events and conditions no matter the circumstances. Similarly, the world itself cleverly manages to feel both familiar and futuristic as time passes, hinting at technological advancements without seeming too ambitious, unlikely, or silly. John’s world is dynamic, but never leaves the reader feeling adrift. For the most part. Yes, the last third of the book is strange, because most of it feels air-lifted in from a completely different novel — given the sudden change in setting, characters, and tone — and I suspect that’s because the reader doesn’t get the same interstitial moments with the main character that we did in previous segments where we strayed from John’s narrative. So even though the last third ends up dovetailing with the rest of the novel nicely, the transition and lack of interplay between the two plotlines is really jarring. It particularly stood out because the rest of the novel, despite the numerous facets of the story in play and the different threads (about aging, hubris, missed opportunities, etc.), flows effortlessly. Whether we’re dealing with heavily scientific detours or key emotional beats, John as wounded man or John as ruthless tactician, the throughline of the story is always apparent.
The storytelling is so patient, in fact, that the ending feels a bit abrupt, even though it arrives precisely as it should. (It’s possible the ending was intentionally abrupt, if a sequel is in the works, but I’m reviewing under the assumption that this novel is a one-and-done). It still satisfies the reader and ties up enough threads to feel like a suitable conclusion, even with the door left open for further follow-up. John’s multilayered schemes are even echoed through the book’s cover art, which combines visual elements of DNA, computer code, and molecular structure — three key components of John’s work throughout the book — into a busy, but fitting, tableau.
The Apotheosis takes the big ideas and moral complexity of hard sci-fi and mixes it with modern thriller trappings to create a science fiction chiller that will keep you engaged until the very last page.
After editing at City Book Review for a few years, I took up the duties of editorial assistant, which include assigning books for review, posting reviews to our various sites, and nagging reviewers for things. In my non-nagging time, I’m a gamer, artist, writer, and notorious black thumb/bane of plants. My answer to every book-related question: read Octavia Butler.
|Page Count||380 pages|
|Publisher||Progressive Rising Phoenix Press LLC|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|
|Category||Science Fiction & Fantasy|