Man, I could not wait to get my hands on this book. Omniscient, the third book in the excellent series, Exoskeleton, by US author, Shane Stadler is finally here.
Shane Stadler grew up in Wisconsin. He holds a PHD in experimental physics and is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University where he teaches and carries out research on novel magnetic materials. He has published nearly 200 papers in scientific journals and co-authors a leading physics textbook. His writing career in fiction began with his debut novel, Exoskeleton, which was published in 2012 by Dark Hall Press. Tympanum, the sequel to Exoskeleton, was released in October of 2015.
So a good 4 year wait before we finally got hold of Omniscient. Its hard to put into words quite how excited I was when this finally got a release date. I am a huge fan of this series. I particularly love how so much of the story is rooted in experimental science. Essentially an expert on the field writing fiction gives it a believable quality no matter how unbelievable it all gets.
Let’s give you a quick recap of what Exoskeleton is about. Now bare with me. This is some tale. William Thomson, facing a prison sentence and pretty much suicidal, gets enrolled on an experiment as a way of securing his freedom through the prison service. That ends up being the catalyst for the whole story. The experiment is not a standard one. Will is chucked into an exoskeleton and tortured horrifically. A continuation of historical torturing, including by the Nazi’s, in an effort to cause enough distress on a human body that the soul would choose to leave it. A form of separation that would allow the soul to leave and re-join a body at will.
Crazy right? Well, it works, kick starting a chain of events that brings secret organisations into play along with different governments. All who have been trying to achieve the same results. That makes Will a very popular man. Some who want to use him, others who would rather he be killed then in the hands of other groups. Will learns to fight, learns to protect himself as agents and assassins close in on him. Eventually he falls in with a group who do appear to be trying to help ending with a trip to Antarctica, an underground base, an undersea beacon and advanced technology.
It is here where Will finally realises his purpose, entering an underground beacon in his separated state, he meets an advanced being known as The Judge. The Judge explains that basically humanity is now on a countdown and that the end is coming. The scene is set for book 3.
Omniscient carries straight on from the previous book, Tympanum. A brief passage shows us the main character of the stories so far, Will Thompson, waking from a nightmare and remembering the words of another important character from the previous books, Horace. We also learn that Horace has passed away as we attend his will reading. A place where we meet his adopted nephew, Jacob. We see Horace’s considerable wealth divided up amongst his children while nothing but a book gets left to a pretty upset Jacob.
Jacob has a pretty rough day really. He is a super smart, puzzle solving government clearance employee who loses out in the will, loses his job and then loses his girlfriend all in a short space of time. It gets worse though – Jacob soon finds out that he is also a target for the Chinese government and in particular their hired gun, Lenny. Lenny is a familiar character, having been the assassin trying to kill different good guys and girls since book 1. Now he wants Jacob, or more accurately, he is tasked with retrieving a very important book. A book Horace left to Jacob in his will.
As Jacob tries to piece his life together, and manages to evade Lenny for now, he finds a key and a puzzle inside the book. That eventually leads him to a property. The property drags him headfirst into the story. It is a safe house of sorts. Horace’s personal area where he has been studying the project that started hundreds of years ago and led to Exoskeleton. Horace was smart and knew that time was running out before a cataclysmic event, as announced by William via The Judge. He also knew how smart and inquisitive Jacob was so left a trail to have Jacob pick up where his life left off.
Jacob eagerly sets to work, unravelling the puzzle strand by strand in his self contained safe house unaware his is being carefully monitored. Horace’s team mates, including William are watching his every move nervously from their own safe house, wondering if they can trust him. Wondering if they should bring him in. As Jacob works away, William and his team of Omniscient’s (super smart, high clearance people) are unravelling the puzzle at their end.
All roads eventually lead to one outcome. It is time to bring Jacob in. It is time to return to the base in Antarctica. The place where so much of the story has taken place appears to also be the place where it may all come to an end. Meanwhile Lenny struggles with his conscience, feeling his own time is running out, he questions his allegiances and decides it is time for change.
With a world ending event about to take place, a team of people trying to find a way to save everyone, governments approaching, all with their own agendas that essentially add up to kill or capture Will, it seems hopeless. The team fight on though. After all they do have a person that can separate his soul from his body on their side. That must mean something right? Their eventual saviour perhaps? Or, is he the bomb that might mean the end for everyone?
I really love this series. It ticks all the boxes from a suspense, science fiction and horror perspective. I guess you could fairly argue that it has moved quite firmly into Sci Fi now. You could also argue that world ending events, torturous Nazi’s and death around every corner is pretty horrific still. One of my favourite things about this book, and the whole series, is how Shane Stadler ties fictional events into real life historical events. His scientific background adds so much to the story. It gives everything a weird sense of realism.
Mostly though I love this book and series for the simple things. Brilliant characters that are well developed over the years to the point that I care deeply about many of them. A well paced, well told story that keeps you hooked page by page. This is simply great story telling from an exciting author. Don’t miss out.
Shane Stadler Links
Exoskeleton III: Omniscient by Shane Stadler