Book 1 of the Invasion Chronicles represents a departure for fantasy series writer Morgan Rice, who here places her affinity for fantasy in the adjacent realm of science fiction.
The story opens with teen Kevin's growing struggles with visions and paralyzing headaches: a condition that's been diagnosed as a degenerative brain disorder, but which actually proves to be something quite different.
Kevin's visions initially involve a strange string of numbers; but as he begins to also see planets, a burning sun, and a kind of countdown, he eventually comes to realize that his condition and hallucinations are much more than a physical death sentence. They're actually a transmission from an unknown extraterrestrial entity and they portend a danger only Kevin may be able to address.
Kevin knows about sci-fi and realizes that in the movies, important people would quickly recognize the value of his experiences. But, he's only thirteen. How can he convince the adults around him—including his mother—that he is experiencing something more than a brain malfunction's final hallucinations?
As a psychiatrist helps him think differently about his visions and disease and various options for coping with both, Kevin is provided with the kinds of tools that lead him to a number of well-kept secrets right on his home planet; from hidden bunkers and military projects to scientists, government concerns, and a conundrum for the world which arises when Kevin dares to talk about aliens on TV.
Suddenly the secret's out, and Kevin finds himself in the middle of a series of dilemmas that will affect Earth's future and humanity's choices.
One strength in Transmission lies in a plot which at first seems familiar (boy discovers alien invasion, child becomes a key to events as they unfold), but takes some unexpected diversions into areas of international intrigue, adding thriller elements that are surprising in a sci-fi story that will reach adults as much as young adult audiences.
These journeys into other countries and other concerns add depth and surprising dimensions into a story that many readers will anticipate as a standard alien invasion plot, offering an approach that juxtaposes a boy's deadly illness with his equally challenging new abilities.
In presenting the key character as an unusually savvy 13-year-old, Morgan Rice is in danger of having this survey regulated to teen audiences alone; and that would be a shame. Although Kevin's age is one of the facets that enters into his ability to perceive what others cannot and his flexibility to accept the impossible, his unusual wisdom and involvements with adult affairs from NASA to confrontations in Columbia hint of a maturity level far beyond a thirteen-year-old's abilities. This makes the story quite accessible to adult sci-fi thriller readers who might not ordinarily pick up a read featuring a teen protagonist.
The deeper issues of honor, faith, and questionable alien intentions are neatly woven into a young boy's quickly-evolving personality as readers find themselves engrossed in an unexpected series of events once the initial platform of an incurable illness and impossible visions is presented in the opening chapters. The pleasure here is that an aura of predictability is crafted; then turned upside down, which creates an atmosphere of surprise not typical in most sci-fi alien invasion tales.
Morgan Rice is a series writer. This means that, like her other productions, Transmission is not only the first in a series; but ends in a cliffhanger that leaves outcomes questionable and begs for continuation.
Riveting, unexpected, and firmly rooted in strong psychological profiles backed with thriller and sci-fi elements: what more could readers wish for? (Just the quick publication of Book Two, Arrival.)