Eden's Endgame, by Barry Kirwan.
It takes a mere ten minutes of reading, and the sensation of having just stepped away for a moment seizes the reader. Louise -- a vicious killer -- opens this novel with a blast. Not really but close enough. Barry Kirwan gives a well-sliced bite of her history, and you get insight to Louise's beginnings. Not that the crafted sympathy lasts long for this brutal villain. Once the story continues, the names of the players are automatically popping back into your mind, and you remember how the taste of Eden colors the worlds Kirwan shows us. Again you take a breath and continue to devour Kirwan's universe. I never want the tales to end!
The deeper I dove into Kirwan's work, the more I admired the complexities he added to his already familiar characters. Backstories came forward along with the hero components I'd already come to expect from such a talented writer. The visual words pulled up a world or three I could see, and that added to the fast-moving plot and the well anchored 'reality.' I didn't feel like I was anywhere but in the now for the future. Every chapter brought the dramas playing out to a tight fierce drive. I felt empathy and anger at the characters.
In this scene the words pull the reader along with an impact.
Kilaney moved back a pace and sat down heavily in a cushioned chair. He gazed at the map of the town, and pointed, speaking in a low voice. "If I am not dead, and my ships are of no more use in space or above ground, and the invaders have breached the outer perimeter, and if you give me no further order, I will land and stand next to Blake, and I will make sure they do not take him alive."
Silence hung in the room after those tombstone words. This was what Petra had wanted. To know the absolute truth, where their devotions lay. "Good. That is what I was hoping you would say."
Kilaney looked up at her, studied her a moment, then got up again, and continued detailing his battle strategy with more vigour in his voice.
The different levels on Kirwan's Endgame are complex, like a multi-layered chess game played on an old popular Sci-Fi series. Just when I am devouring one side of the board, there is a twist and a jerk and suddenly I need to switch my focus and savor the latest bit offered to me. Heroes are lost and villains challenged, built from Kirwan's mind in ways that resonate as truly possible. Petra, who was a minor character in the beginning of the Eden series, stretches and fills her leadership role nicely. The characterization isn't one-dimensional, either, but instead is complex and true to her world.
"The Youngbloods are ready."
She nodded. Part of her wanted to dismiss him, before he could say more. But another part held her tongue. She thought about Gabriel, how long she'd loved him from afar, unable to tell him how she'd felt, not until the very end. So she understood this particular pain. Brandt seemed to read her mind.
"What did you say to him, Petra, at the end? Did he know?"
Now she wished she'd dismissed him. "Not fair, Brandt. Anyway, I said nothing, Micah spoke."
Brandt was very still, unlike his usual boisterous self. He looked her in the eye.
"What did he do when he realised how you felt about him?"
She looked away, remembering how Gabriel had held her on the disintegrating ship, embraced her, and kissed her while she wept like a little girl. Most nights she fell asleep thinking about those moments. "That's between us."
"Of course." Brandt got up, and headed for the door.
"Brandt, I need to know I can rely on you. Are we okay?"
He opened the door, and stood framed there, blocking most of the daylight, his back to her.
"Yes, Madam President."
She watched the door close with a soft click. Petra thought she'd feel relief, but instead, those words stung. Dammit! She got up to go after him. Midway to the door, the radio crackled into life.
Every time a chapter ended, I felt myself racing to continue, and then was caught up in the newest threads of a past tale being made into the cloth that Barry Kirwan tore from his highly creative mind to share with readers.
I won't spoil the ending, but let's just say Barry Kirwan is one of the better sci-fi writers I've had the pleasure of reading in the past dozen-plus years. I'm looking forward to more from this talented man.