Grass Valley novelist Avanti Centrae is back with another world-spanning adventure featuring thirty-something twins Maddy Marshall and her brother Will Argones. It’s a follow-up to Centrae’s debut, “VanOps: The Lost Power,” which should be read first (though readers of the new work are brought up to speed).
“Solstice Shadows: A VanOps Thriller” ($16.49 in paperback from Thunder Creek Press; also for Amazon Kindle) chronicles the work of Vanguard Operations, a shadowy unit of the CIA. Chartered “to keep an eye out for any sort of advanced … technology that threatened the security of the United States,” the organization learns that the Russians are developing a quantum computer capable of hacking even the most sophisticated protections.
In order to run properly, the computer needs superconducting materials, precisely what Maddy wielded in the form of small obelisks, strange shards that helped her channel ball lightning and defeat the Russians — for a time — some 16 months earlier. But now the race is on to find the origin of those shards, likely contained in a meteor buried somewhere 3300 years ago.
The only clue as to its whereabouts is a “star chart” ripped from an ancient codex.
Centrae’s depiction of what could happen if that super-computer hacked its way into U.S. “critical infrastructure” sent shivers down my spine: “How would truck drivers deliver food to stores with no gasoline? If dams didn’t work, how would the farmers and firefighters have water to use? … With no food, water, power, cash, or gasoline, there would be chaos. Armed fighting for basic survival. It would make the COVID-19 pandemic look like child’s play.”
And if the military’s own communications were scrambled, the country would be open to, well, invasion.
Making matters worse, the Spaniards (under the direction of the evil King Carlos, to whom Maddy and Will are related) want in on the action.
The VanOps team (Maddy’s boyfriend Bear Thorenson, who tries to get Maddy to join VanOps officially; Will; and group leader “Jags,” an “intriguing” woman to whom Will is attracted) has only days to find the secret of the superconducting meteor.
From Mexico to Jordan, the action never stops until the nail-biter of a conclusion.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. Send review requests to email@example.com. Columns archived at https://dielbee.blogspot.com.