The Strivers is an unusual mix of fiction and hard science that explores the lives of a team of scientists embarking on a clandestine mission to harvest energy in an innovative way.
The Ephasian Society, a small group of the wealthy and powerful, is building a select team of people with the intelligence, experience, and stamina to bring the Society’s vision to realization. Each member must be thoroughly committed to the cause and sign a secrecy agreement; Society founders are determined to avoid hounding from the media and any interference that governments would surely impose.
Übermensch Max Ernst has been recruited as the leader of this monumental project. Phil Wallace Payne tempers Ernst with enough humanity that readers will cheer him on rather than be put off by his over-the-top abilities. Payne gives every team member adequate depth through backstory and, at some point, brings each to center stage to explain his or her own scientific work.
In this way, science ¬— a smorgasbord of physics, chemistry, oceanography, climatology, and more — is woven into the story and may prove daunting for those without scientific curiosity. Payne offers pages of explanations of the science behind the Society’s mission – and this can derail the action. Readers with serious scientific appetites, however, will relish the plentiful explanations. On the softer side, Payne stirs romance into the mixture, although some of these subplots seem forced.
The introduction, with its lofty ideas and intimidating terminology, can be off-putting. And the repetition of sentences and onslaught of incorrect punctuation, capitalization, and spelling is an early aggravation, although the story eventually grips readers enough to make that annoyance vanish.
The Strivers is an intense, engaging read for those who like their science served with a dash of sea squalls, sabotage, and soul mates. It will especially appeal to readers who are hopeful about man’s ability to unleash the natural sources of clean energy still available on this planet.
Also available in paperback.