Flint of Dreams (available on Amazon) by Charles Peterson Sheppard is about a former car thief of Native American heritage, his friends, and his foes. Part ensemble novel, with a strong sense of community in the upstate New York locale where much of the action takes place, the novel is also an introduction to the flawed Flint Spencer, a Seneca Indian whose pugilistic approach to life has constantly got him into trouble. Did we mention the car stealing?
The storyline is exceptionally imaginative while adhering to a reasonably conventional form; unique in too many ways to count, it's got a horrific psychotic villain who haunts people's dreams alongside their realities, and in the background, more than one cabal of criminals in support. With this many baddies (and that doesn't even include the US intelligence agencies who, as per usual, don't seem to care about who gets hurt), the novel certainly merits a sequel.
There are a brace of Yoda-like elderly mentors here too, in the guise of Flint's employer Konstantin (with whom Flint enjoys a spot of banter) and widow Leona, whose clinical obesity would likely have put her into an early grave without modern medicine, even before she becomes the victim of an assault.
Sci-fi and horror elements include concepts such as the use of drugs to enhance delta brain waves, telekinetic powers and other kinds of ESP. It's based, it seems, in the spooky reality where conspiracy theory meets government policy.
You might recall the story of how, many moons back, the CIA approached spoon-bending Uri Geller about the possibility of stopping hearts. He was appalled by this suggestion of an abuse of his telekinesis. Apparently, the US intelligence agencies were working on this kind of hi-jinks for decades.
In Sheppard's marvellous novel, the intelligence services are keen to develop similar techniques. The discovery that certain members of certain Native American tribes - with their cultural focus on vision quests and meditation - are genetically predisposed to something akin to an ultra-high-quality astral projection - leads Homeland Security to regard certain individuals as tribespeople of interest. This gift, it transpires, can be enhanced further with drugs.
The story plays out as we learn of everyone's motives. We find out that there are far worse people than car thieves. The hubris of playing God is touched on in a wonderfully oblique way - and far less secularly than one might expect in a tome where neurology also plays such a key role.
There is an impressive showdown, and a heart-warming, rounded, slightly bittersweet resolution to it all. Fingers crossed for a sequel.
You can buy the book here!