In this brilliant science fiction adventure, veteran storyteller Steven Burgauer weaves an intricate narrative bristling with technological insights and historical detail.
And, along the way, he spins a good old-fashioned space opera about a stranded trio of female clones, a man with a mission rooted in the past, and a sweeping journey across time and space to put an end to a genetic curse.
In the opening pages of this tale, Captain Andu Nehrengel, the victim of a mutiny in deep space, finds his way to a nearby planet to discover giant, carnivorous parrot-beasts and — astonishingly — human footprints close by. He follows these footprints and winds up as the prisoner of three gorgeous female clones — the sole surviving members of an expeditionary band of Mormons dispatched from Earth more than two centuries earlier to establish a new colony.
Things progress in a satisfactory manner — at least for Nehrengel. The trio has never seen a man before and — well, let’s just say they are delighted to meet one. However, on a trip back to recover batteries from his downed ship, the bird-beasts attack and kill two of the triplets before Capt. Nehrengel can lay waste to the avian attackers.
Heartbroken and now alone, the surviving clone — named Prime Alpha — cozies up to Nehrengel and agrees to go with him on a trip back in time to try and change history.
But before you say: “Been there, done that on a million time-travel stories before,” hang on. This one delves deep into uncharted fictional waters for one of the most imaginative plot twists we’ve seen in years.
After acquiring a spaceworthy ship, Nehrengel and his lovely new friend set their sights on a place Prime Alpha has never seen — the storied homeworld she’s only read about: Terra. Soon the lovely blue-white ball is growing in their forward viewscreen — Planet Earth, circa 1861.
In Part 2 of this exciting adventure, Nehrengel and Prime Alpha — now going by the name of Margaret — find they’ve miscalculated a key component of their journey and must adjust their plans to contact the object of their trip — Nehrengel’s great-great-granduncle Byron Matthewson — and correct a calamitous wrinkle in the fabric of time.
Along the way, they sail on a riverboat, discover that Alpha/Margaret can put her telepathic powers to profitable use in a friendly game of poker, meet an American writer of some fame — Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain — and become embroiled in the terrible conflict that was the American Civil War.
“It has been said that war is the continuation of politics by other means. This was unquestionably the case with the American War Between the States. Not for another five hundred years — not until the Great War — would more American blood be spilled for less reason.”
Some passages of this novel are purely poetic in their power to convey a sense of scene to the reader. Nowhere is this power more clearly on display than in the section in which Andu — playing the part of a Union soldier in search of his kinsman — gets caught up in the fray:
“Shiloh was a battle fought on a rough, wooded plateau. It was a battle fought up and down and along the ridges of deep gullies and sloping hills. One fought amid thick underbrush and heavy timber. A battle saved only at the eleventh hour by reinforcements. A battle so potent in its results it very likely changed the entire course of the war.
Can they do it? Can they alter time to suit their purposes and survive all the adventures they encounter? Pack your things and tag along as Andu, Alpha/Margaret and the venerable Sam Clemens get themselves into one seemingly inextricable situation after another on the way to a surprising and satisfying conclusion.
Five stars to The Grandfather Paradox. It’s a saga worth savoring, from beginning to end.