Rating: 5 stars
“The Tower” is the finale of Simon Toyne‘s “Sanctus” trilogy, also called the “Ruin” trilogy, and it is a worthy successor to its two predecessors. As a matter of fact, it is the best of the three novels, no mean feat considering that the first two, “Sanctus,” and “The Key,” were also exciting and thoughtful mystery/ action/ suspense thrillers.
The “Sanctus” trilogy is still another in the ever-expanding genre of works that combine elements of mystical and primitive religious practices with scientific explorations of the mysteries of the universe. Conflicts and contradictions inherent in the religion versus science controversy abound.
But Toyne builds beautifully developed plots and fascinating thematic elements that separate his work from run-of-the-mill Dan Brown-ish or Michael Crichton-ish efforts.
In this novel, a new protagonist emerges. He is Joe Shepherd, a rookie FBI agent with a mysterious past, who is assigned to help cover an emerging and puzzling series of events. The Hubble space telescope has been kicked out of its orbit and is nearing the earth. Famous astronomers are disappearing after receiving threatening messages warning them to stop exploring the universe.
And things get weirder as the plot unfolds: the rhythms of life are gradually being turned upside-down. Birds are migrating to the wrong places at the wrong time. Millions of people feel and act on an inexplicable urge to return “home” — either the place they were born or the place in the world that is most important to them.
Soon, the main characters from the first two trilogy entries join the eerie proceedings, and all the religious elements of the first two novels become inextricably bound-up with these new events and mysteries. And two of the first two novels’ main characters, Liv Adamsen and Gabriel Mann, again become major figures. [Note the religious significance of the names of these three characters — Liv (life) Adamsen (descendant of Adam — as in descended from his rib); Gabriel (archangel) Mann (Man the meaning of Adam); and Joseph Shepherd (Joseph and the many shepherds associated with New Testament events)].
The “end of days” is approaching. The Apocalypse. But perhaps that event will not be quite what we have all learned to expect. And the ending of the novel and the trilogy bring it all together in a way that is exciting, suspenseful — and really lovely. A beautiful surprise.
That beauty is based first on the simple but profound observation that the universe has been expanding since its birth; second on the question, What if the whole universe suddenly did a U-turn — started shrinking? And third, on Toyne’s remarkable answer to that question. To see that answer, do not fail to read this unique and extraordinarily inventive novel. (JK)
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the author for review purposes.