The first book in a science fiction trilogy.

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Phil Gigante
Running Time: 12 hrs and 8 minutes

Rex is a small time bootlegger in New York which is suffering from an economic depression and from prohibition. He’s doing more than ok but then a larger criminal, McCabe, wants in on the game and shoulders Rex out. Rex’s right hand man, Jerome, is killed in a car accident which is caused by New York’s two super heroes: the Skyguard and the Science Pirate. For unknown reasons, they have turned against each other and have been fighting each other for months. Now they seem to have their ultimate confrontation on the Empire State Building and a huge explosion happens. Then the heroes fall from the sky. Rad stays to watch when they crawl out of the crate. Science Pirate takes off her helmet and shows that she’s a woman. This angers Rad and he starts to follow her. He decides to kill her and does so. Afterward, he finds himself in a strange city which reminds him of his New York but subtly different. People also look the same but are different.

Rad Bradley is a private detective in Empire State. Strange men attack him and demand to know what he knows about 1950. Rad doesn’t understand what they mean; 1950 what? The Skyguard rescues Rad from the men but then the men disappear. The Skyguard says that they have left the city but Rad doesn’t understand that either; there’s nothing outside the city so they can’t have left. Also, he, and others in the city, can’t remember anything about their past beyond a few years.

Rad’s journalist friend tells him that the Skyguard had been executed a couple of hours earlier and then Rad remembers that Skyguard has been in jail for years. Also, Empire State is in war with an unknown enemy and it produces warships called ironclads. A couple of time each year, the warships leave for war but none of them ever return.

Rad is down on his luck, down on his last bit of money and desperately in need of a client. Then a mysterious woman comes into his office and asks Rad to find her partner. Apparently, the police aren’t interested in looking into the disappearance, because her partner is also a woman and that’s illegal. Rad takes the case and starts to look for Sam Saturn. The case takes him to a religious cult, of the Pastor of the Lost Souls, and then he starts to realize that there is a wider world outside Empire State and it’s weirder than he ever imagined.

The book has great atmosphere and I think it captured well the atmosphere of the depression era US. I also liked the pseudo-science which is very comic book like.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really care for the characters and I actively loathed Rex, the small time criminal who turned into a murderer. Out of the other characters I liked Byron who is a mechanical man but he isn’t seen much.

I love parallel universes (of course most of the time I read about them in super hero comics and then I’m very familiar with the original characters) but unfortunately this time it didn’t work for me. Maybe it’s because I didn’t care for the characters or because of the audio book so it’s not possible flip back and check on a character. I loved the ideas behind the book and was eager to listen to it, but for some reason it didn’t work for me.