Let’s get straight to the point: The SHIVA Syndrome trilogy is one of the best-written stories I’ve read in years. It’s rare to see any book that combines science fiction and spirituality effectively, especially when the very nature of reality is thrown into the mix as a major theme. The last one I can recall being worth reading was Asimov’s “The Gods Themselves,” and to be frank it was a lot less accessible than this book. Not to mention that it’s way dated, since it came out in the early 1970s. Some of the short stories of the sorely-missed James Tiptree, Jr. (actually psychologist Alice Sheldon) came close, but she’s been gone a long time now.
I’m not saying others haven’t explored these themes since Asimov and Tiptree, especially the idea that the human mind can shape reality—not just the perception of it, but reality itself. The quantum mechanical “observer effect,” in which just watching some scientific experiments seems to affect their outcomes, makes this inevitable. But most authors have avoided mixing mysticism with their science fiction, much less adding in the Clancyesque thriller elements that Alan Joshua includes here. The result is an easily readable, believable, and above all human story. It’s a big story (in more ways than one — I originally read and reviewed the 600-page single book edition!), but I guarantee, once you get into it, it won’t last long. You’ll gulp it down and go looking for more. That’s how good this story is.
The new trilogy includes additional story elements to bridge the three books. It must have been difficult to split the original book into thirds, since the story works well as one seamless whole. Yet I didn’t see any “surgical scars,” so to speak; the separation has been executed quite well.
I won’t spoil the story by describing it here in detail, except to note that it opens with a subject in a neuroscience experiment creating a black hole with his mind alone in a densely populated suburb of Moscow—and then the action and tension scales up from there. The book is packed full of well-rounded, believable characters, and enough ideas for any ten books. This is a series that you’ll want to go back to repeatedly, and while my Kindle editions are sharp and well-produced, I really want hard copies, too.