Michael J. Martinez won me over with his Daedalus Trilogy that features sailing ships moving between the planets in an alternate universe that has collided with a slightly more familiar universe (where we’ve reached Mars) and the heroes who have discovered something evil that threatens both realities. Now, Martinez has a begun a new trilogy that is set during the Cold War where the term “super powers” refers to both the countries involved in the Cold War and a small set of individuals called Variants who are displaying some amazing talents that their governments wish to exploit.
At the tail end of World War II, soldier Frank Lodge falls into the hands of a Nazi scientist who is performing an experiment that will be world-changing. During this event, Frank is changed… he is able to “absorb” the knowledge and skills of someone he touches when they die. And he’s not the only one… a powerful surge of energy has swept the planet and affected a very tiny percentage of the population, and certain government employees are in a race to find these changed individuals and see exactly what it is they can do.
A small team of US citizens is pulled together and put to the test–can they learn to control their powers and work together as a team? It’s the answer to those two questions that made the book so enjoyable to me. Martinez has put together a mix of Variants from all walks of life, and keep in mind that the story takes place in the late 1940s when segregation was in play and women weren’t viewed as equals in the workforce. With a male African-American team member who can heal and a female who can force those around her to experience any emotion she chooses, you can probably imagine how things go when a white Southern male (who can alter matter) with some real prejudices is added to the team along with the pulled-from-retirement Frank Lodge. The team is being trained at a secret base, but how reliable will the team be when none of them want to to be there? Only a slight sense of patriotism (along with a few unspoken threats) seems to be the glue to keep them moving forward and willing to work with the US military and government agencies.
Reluctantly, the team is called into service and dropped into a situation that goes from difficult to life-threatening. True colors are revealed along with an opposing team of Variants who are also loyal to their own government. And lurking elsewhere is a growing evil that owes no allegiance…
MJ-12: Inception isn’t just an origin story–it’s the setup for a much larger conspiracy (actually, two or three of them if I had to guess). There are plenty of secrets revealed here, in the first book, but there are also quite a few bigger twists I sense coming. Martinez has me hooked, and I’m anxiously awaiting the next book in the trilogy–I imagine more Variants, more subterfuge, and more world-ending risks are to be revealed. It’s good stuff.