On to the book. Here is the back cover blurb:
Words that ring painfully true for Adam Sheppard, a San Francisco programmer who has spent the vast majority of his 30-something years lost in the dim glow of a computer screen. On the verge of a psychotic break, Adam begins to have a recurring dream of his early childhood and the hauntingly rustic town of Mendocino, California, where he grew up. Convinced he has left something behind there, something vital to his present sanity, Adam walks away from his current life to figure out what that is.
One evening, out on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Adam has a chance encounter with a mysterious woman, only to later realize that she may be a long forgotten childhood friend. The coincidence of their reunion only deepens as Adam discovers that the woman has also returned to Mendocino due to a recurring dream, eerily similar to his own.
Lost soulmates drawn together through time and space, or perhaps their meeting is only the beginning of a much deeper mystery. As Adam awakens to the possibility that his life could be destined for more than a bleak virtual wasteland, he soon finds himself a crucial pawn in a game that pits forces intent on enslaving the human spirit against those few quixotic souls who still search for meaning, beauty, and magic in the world.
Pretty intriguing storyline, don't you think? But here's the thing. It's also very well-written. And I particularly liked how he referred to everyday situations that we can all relate to. Take for example this passage:
"Adam gave his head an Etch-A-Sketch shake, attempting to wipe away the lingering bit of code."
Is there anybody who can't see themselves as a child (or even as an adult!) shaking an Etch-A-Sketch over their heads? I think not.
Or this, on wearing earbuds to avoid contact with people on the streets:
"It was surprisingly useful, especially in San Francisco, where one easily could be accosted by a panhandler, a religious fanatic, and an environmentalist all on the same corner."
If you've been to San Francisco (or any big city, for that matter), I know that right now you are nodding your head.
Or, finally, this, about a restaurant where he had been celebrating his birthday the past 5 years:
"It was convenient and quasi-fancy, kid friendly while also being a hit with the blue-haired set."
We've all noticed this too (I'll be noticing it more as I rapidly approach the age of blue-hairs!).
Michael describes the process of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. And I daresay it's an explanation that few of us know. He also gives a great description of what science is. I guarantee that it will make you feel very small and just a tad insignificant. But what grabbed me throughout the book was due to the 1st 5+ pages. When the book opens, we find Adam at Presidio House, a "long-term inpatient rehab facility." And he doesn't talk! The next chapter starts with "Three years earlier..." In a book that is clearly not a mystery/suspense/thriller, I sure wanted to know what happened to Adam that led him to Presidio House. That was a lot of suspense for me.
What Lies Beyond The Stars is not only a good debut novel, it's just flat-out a good novel, period. Michael, you done good.