The Edge of Ruin
by Melinda Snodgrass
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765316462
Date: 13 April 2010 List Price $27.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
There are terrible forces outside of our reality--and they want to come in. The only power holding them is science, mustered by a remarkable (and seemingly immortal) individual named Kenntnis.
Now he's gone and an Albuquerque cop has the weight of the world on his shoulders. If Richard Oort can't rise to this challenge, it really will be the end of the world.
In Edge of Reason, Richard Oort was introduced to the world of "Old Ones" who feed off human suffering. They hail from dimensions apart from our own, and though they might fight among themselves, Earth is the prize. If they win, however, mankind is finished.
With the disappearance of Kenntnis, due to a stunning betrayal, Richard is now in charge of Lumina Enterprises, a vast multinational that sponsors scientific breakthroughs. As Edge of Ruin opens, Richard is learning exactly what he has gotten himself into...
Beyond merely trying to save the world, Richard must contend with a disapproving father and sister, as well as personal entanglements involving Dr. Angela Armandariz (the city's chief medical examiner) and Rhiana, a young woman with tremendous power and conflicting loyalties. He's aided by his former boss, Lt. Dan Weber, and a former enemy, Rev. Mark Grenier, who's worked for the Old Ones and understands them like few others.
He also has the sword Kenntnis forged, which is the only known way to kill Old Ones. Trouble is, Richard is the not the only one who can wield it: the bad guys have their own paladin as well, a psychotic named Doug Andressen.
Things are getting bad fast. As reality begins to break down, magic will become more powerful and horrific things will manifest. In Virginia, the US Army is keeping a cordon around a place infected by the Old Ones--but that's a losing battle, as the soldiers' very sanity is eroded by close proximity to an alien influence.
In order to succeed, Richard must navigate a minefield of personal issues, overcoming his inner demons if he is to defeat the genuinely demonic things endangering the world. Despite the pressures threatening to shatter him, he must find a way to be true to himself--but the deeper question is, who is Richard Oort really?
Melinda Snodgrass has delivered a powerhouse work, wherein the overarching battle is science vs. superstition (and there's little doubt where she comes down in choosing a good guy); at the same time, the human-level struggles revolve around identity and achieving cohesion of self in order to become effective. Richard's journey is as much an exploration of his self--apart from the expectations placed on him by family, friends and benefactors--as it is an effort to rally humanity's resources against the Old Ones. As is the case with the hero's journey, Richard will have to change and grow if he wants to win.
Similarly, Rhiana has to decide who she's going to be: the daughter of the Old One named Madoc (and a key element of his master plan) or a young woman with wants and needs of her own? The two cannot co-exist and her choices, as well as Richard's, are fundamental to the story's outcome.
Peopled with a richly drawn cast of characters, including the renegade Old One Cross, science nerd Eddie Tanaka, and Pamela and Judge Oort (who grapple with their feelings for Richard in their own ways), the story is a big, complex and ambitious tale that rarely rests and demands the reader's full attention. The ideas are provocative, strongly so, and Snodgrass doesn't hold back from judging our history in the strong light of rationality.
In the end, it's all we have to hold the darkness of chaos at bay.
Readers looking for a thoughtful, action-packed and fascinating story, this one is for you.