cover image Twelve Days

Twelve Days

Steven Barnes. Tor, $26.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-7653-7597-1

An Indian mystic turns an autistic boy into a psychic weapon in this disappointing novel, Barnes’s first solo publication since 2009’s Shadow Valley. A message that foretells the deaths of prominent public leaders and criminals, dubbed the “Dead List,” isn’t taken very seriously at first, but when people on the list begin to die violently, the world takes notice. Journalist Olympia Dorsey is raising 13-year-old Nicki and eight-year-old Hannibal in Atlanta on her own. When she and her former lover, Terry Nicolas, meets the otherworldly Madame Gupta at a martial arts demonstration, Gupta calls Hannibal an “indigo boy.” She claims she can help him at her retreat, Salvation Sanctuary. She also has a very odd effect on Terry, and he starts to question his involvement in a heist planned with his ex-Special Forces buddies. When it becomes clear that Gupta has terrifying plans for Hannibal, Olympia, with Terry’s help, must get him away from her before it’s too late. Barnes’s characters are mostly well-written, and he knows his way around a fight scene, but the apocalyptic thread is thin, and the heavy metaphysical angle may be off-putting for some readers. Most offensive is Gupta’s plan to use Hannibal’s powers, stemming from his autism, to send out a “killing wave” to murder people from afar. Many readers won’t make it all the way to the too-pat conclusion. Agent: Eleanor Wood, Spectrum Literary. (July)