In the first book, Mercury Falls, Robert Kroese introduced us to a new breed of apocalyptic tale. It’s very tongue-in-cheek, reminiscent of Douglas Adams and Spider Robinson, and the whole story was well-crafted and executed with fun and irreverence.
In the second book, Mercury Rises, Kroese pretty much does the same thing. This time out, however, most of the book is told in two separate time tracks, one involving reporter Christine Temetri as she struggles to put her life together after the Anaheim Event; the other involving the back st0ry of Mercury’s time with Tiamat, who’s the main “boo-hiss” antagonist in this book.
My question after the first book, was how Kroese could top Armageddon. Or rather, how you top the postponement of Armageddon, because it hasn’t happened yet. Christine and Mercury managed to delay the inevitable the first time around, but it’s coming eventually. Mercury Rises does it pretty well, actually.
The sequel deals with billionaire Horace Finch and his quest to unlock the mysteries of the universe using a Large Hadron Collider of sorts. Naturally, this has the potential to wipe out the very same universe Finch wants to unlock. And his efforts are discovered – quite by accident – by FBI science specialist Jacob Slater, who was brought in to help figure out just what happened in Anaheim.
The back-story focuses on Mercury helping Tiamat build ziggurats (the step-pattern pyramids) in Babylon. Once completed (in exactly the correct location, mind you) they will open a portal to the “metaverse” – a higher plane of existence that will allow Tiamat to achieve omnipotence and omniscience. She thinks she’ll be even more powerful than God Himself. Mercury, of course, is on assignment to keep an eye on her and make sure she doesn’t get to far along in her progress, which is hampered by all sorts of labor problems, disease, famine, and that pesky flood that destroyed the world – except for Noah’s family.
[Side note: being a church-going man myself, and knowing Kroese was a deacon in his church at one time, I’m a little annoyed at his portrayal of Noah and Co. in this story. Granted, the incident where Noah was drunk and unclothed and pretty much embarrassing to his family is recorded in Genesis. But I was a little peeved that Kroese characterized them so crudely. To have historical Biblical characters act and speak so crass and out-of-character was off-putting, even though it made no real impact on the story itself. But I digress…]
The modern-day story track has several components: Christine trying (and failing) to get back to a normal life, only to find herself inadvertently helping Finch get his hands on an anti-bomb. Plus, forgotten angel Eddie Pratt gets an offer to complete the last Charlie Nyx book – a deal that gives Eddie a few surprises to handle, including a run-in with a gorgeous actress/private investigator who may or may not have more of a role to play in the next book.
This novel really seems to serve as one long setup for the next book, Mercury Rests, which could either imply that Mercury has earned a break, or he could be making a final legal argument and rests his case (or maybe both). We’re left with a cliff-hanger of sorts, with a number of threads left hanging for the conclusion.
In the meantime, Mercury Rises does a good job of giving us more of an understanding of just what drives Mercury, and how things may not always work out exactly the way he plans, but he clearly has more plan than anyone else realizes. His history with Tiamat shows more dimensions to his personality – even though he’s still the irreverent rogue we got to know in Mercury Falls.
Kroese also introduces another element to the story: the Elementals. This is a group of beings who are higher up than the angels, but not as high up as God. What do they have to do with the flood? What is their involvement in the Charlie Nyx books and the forthcoming destruction of the universe? And how will Mercury get out of the predicament he’s in after the end of this part of the story?