cover image The Chaos Function

The Chaos Function

Jack Skillingstead. HMH/Adams, $24 (304p) ISBN 978-1-328-52615-1

One woman holds the key to stopping a worldwide catastrophe in Skillingstead’s harrowing sci-fi thriller. In 2029, freelance journalist Olivia Nikitas is in postwar Aleppo, hot on the trail of a new story. She takes shelter with her lover, Brian Anker, during an attack and discovers a hideously wounded man who tries to tell her something. When Brian is killed, Olivia feels a strange shift and then discovers that Brian is now impossibly alive, though still gravely injured. After she and Brian return to Seattle, Olivia is kidnapped by the Society, who claim they have the ability to change the course of the future for the better by manipulating probability streams, and that Olivia is now the first female Shepherd, able to shift the streams. By inadvertently saving Brian, she doomed the world to imminent collapse from an epidemic and nuclear annihilation. Pursued by the Society, Olivia hopes to find a way to save both the world and the only man she’s ever loved. With lean prose, Skillingstead (Life on the Preservation) paints a realistic and terrifying portrait of society’s swift unraveling in the face of disaster, and Olivia’s emotional vulnerability mirrors the chaos inherent in the world around them. This crackling road trip through the apocalypse offers thrills all the way to its explosive, satisfying finale. (Mar.)