Review by Ulysses Dietz
Member of the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
Skythane are just people with wings. They’re not angels, nor magical. They just have wings. On the split planet Oberon, they were the first colonizers, but have become both less commonplace and somewhat marginalized since the second wave of colonizers—ordinary humans referred to by the Skythane as “landers.”
As you can imagine, there’s a story there, and this first book in J. Scott Coatsworth’s Oberon Cycle only begins to reveal it. It is always hard, when reviewing a hugely imaginative work like this, how to talk about it without spoiling surprises. Coatsworth has taken us to a distant planet hundreds of years in the future, where, unsurprisingly, the economic culture is largely controlled by a capitalist enterprise known as OberCorp. Not only has corporate greed survived, but so has judgmental conformity, as espoused by the Christianists. I guess some things are just hardwired into humanity.
Our central protagonist is Xander Kinnson, a twenty-something Skythane with iridescent black wings like a raven’s. Xander has spent his whole life on Oberon, and it has for the most part not been an easy life.
Xander’s counterpoint (antagonist?) is Jameson Havercamp, a meek conformist from the Christianist planet Beta Tau. Jameson has been assigned by his employer, the Psych Guild, to visit Oberon to look into a recent supply reduction of a drug known as pith—both very addictive and highly useful in psychological medication.
By happy coincidence, Xander has been assigned to escort Jameson on his visit. The odd thing is, Xander and Jameson have entirely different ideas of where they’re supposed to be going.
The catalyst, it seems, is Quince, a middle-aged woman with the great white wings of an angel. She knows something. She knows a lot in fact, but exactly who she is and what she knows is only hinted at in the book’s prologue.
Faint echoes of “Dune” flutter in your mind as you read this story; but Coatsworth’s narrative is more straightforward and its characters are not melodramatic, in spite of the wings. Jameson, Xander, and Quince form an unlikely trio for a road trip, especially once events begin to spin out of control and the tension ratchets up.
The vividly imagined reality of Oberon is that of a high-tech world so corrupt and jaded after centuries of development that inconvenient scientific truths have been relegated to the realm of superstition. Only our mismatched trio—and the mysterious orphan child called Morgan they pick up on the way—have any idea what’s really going on and what they have to do to stop it.
I loved the characters, and the tantalizing mix of sci-fi and fantasy in the plot. Coatsworth builds up a lot of excitement, leaving his readers hungry for more.