by A.G. Riddle
Cover Artist: Damonza
Review by Ernest Lilley
Harper Voyager Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062431660
Date: 20 October 2015 List Price $21.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Ed. NOTE: This review originally appeared in our April 2015 issue for the paperback edition released in December 2015.
Flight 305 took off for London on time, but it's going to arrive late. Don't bother waiting up, because it won't get there until 2147. Actually, it won't get there at all, because the space-time warp that plucks it out of the present drops it back onto the English countryside in pieces. And that's where the fun begins.
If you don't know who A.G. Riddle is, then you've missed the meteoric rise of this sci-fi/pulp/romance author on Amazon’s best-selling eBook lists. You aren't among the twenty-odd million readers of his Origin Mystery trilogy: The Atlantis Gene, The Atlantis Plague, and The Atlantis World. Maybe you're allergic to books with Atlantis in the title. I know I am, at least to some degree. Fortunately, Departure isn't about the lost continent, though he can't resist using the name somewhere in the book, if to good purpose.
The story moves quickly to the crash of Flight 305 from New York to London, alternating chapters between the viewpoints of the two main characters, Harper Lane and Nick Stone. She's a journalist-biographer who'd really like to quit ghosting through other people's lives and write an action character she's toyed with for years. He's a dot com lottery winner that needs to find something worth doing before he goes crazy. As they stumble out onto an English countryside one hundred and thirty-three years into their future, little things like what to do with your life become easier to resolve.
Nick discovers that he's really good in a crisis, something he'd managed to miss until now. While the rest of his fellow first class survivors are content to wander around in circles watching the rear section of the plane sink into a lake, Nick finds himself whipping them into an ad-hoc rescue team, despite the freezing water and danger of being sucked down with the plane. Harper finds herself doing things she never imagined she would, or could, struggling to free passengers from their seats before the cabin slips under the water. In doing her bit, she gets trapped in the plane, and Nick barely pulls her out.
And the expected rescue teams keep not coming.
Gradually they piece together clues that they’re not in 2014 anymore. Clues like the total lack of radio or cellular communications, the bright ring in the sky, and more subtle clues like the holographic Stonehenge museum site they run across. Then about half the survivors start keeling over from a mysterious aliment and the crash site is suddenly overrun with beings in suits that shoot everyone on sight.
Fortunately they're shooting tranquilizers, and even more fortunately, the late-arriving rescue team has brought advanced medical technology with them to heal the remaining survivors. Unfortunately another group shows up and future war breaks out. Nick and Harper manage to escape with two others, Sabrina the personality deficient doctor, and Yul Tan, the spooky quantum physicist. Earlier, Harper heard the two talking about knowing a lot more about what was going on than they were letting on, and when Nick confronts them in an abandoned farmhouse, they begin to put things together.
Things in the future are not going well. Almost all of humanity died off shortly after a few wealthy idealists created a cabal of really well-intentioned folks that were going to live forever and help mankind. Modestly, they called themselves the Titans. Now they've grabbed a handful of critical people from the past to help save the future. The only problem is that the Titans have split into two factions, one who wants what the Flight 305 survivors can offer them, and the other which wants to do a reset on the whole thing, preventing the flight from ever arriving. When gods fight, mortals should keep their heads down, but Nick, Harper, Sabrina and Yul don't have any choice. One way or another, they're at the center of everything that's happened, and humanity's only hope.
Of course, if they save humanity, Nick and Harper will probably wind up forgetting their new found feelings for each other. Wait, did I forget to mention that part?
Departure is a quick read and if you like your pulp SF mixed with romance, you'll find it right up your alley. It's even got some assorted bits of science thrown in, but I had a hard time getting past the notion of ultra-wealthy do-gooders thinking a cabal of 100 immortals was going to work out for anyone in the long run. Seems like we've seen that movie before and it never ends well. Unlike Departure.
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