3 out of 4 stars
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Imagine that you have an incurable and debilitating disease, money is no object, and you may have a second chance at life if you are willing to trust the latest technological advances that are still being perfected. What would you do? In Shepherds of Destiny: Book One by Kiel Barnekov, two men have been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and have a limited amount of time to make this very decision. In 2028, Kristian Barnett becomes a billionaire after inheriting his parents' estate; he is diagnosed with ALS when he is only thirty-three. Ten years later, Aaron Adams suffers symptoms of the disease in its advanced stages. Thanks to ongoing research by neurosurgeon Savannah Richards and top-secret developments by Kristian's wife, Dr. Ansley Barnett, both men are presented with risky lifesaving alternatives. Meanwhile, a spiritual being, known as "The Guardian," must intervene to right the wrongs of historical events and ensure that good prevails over evil. Can he count on Kristian and Aaron to help fulfill these missions?
At 195 pages, this relatively short read surprised me in that I found it hard to put down. True confession: I am not a Star Trek fan and rarely select books in the sci-fi genre. If I happen to come across words like "cyborg" in a synopsis, I usually keep scrolling. However, after reading the Amazon sample--which I recommend in contrast to the extremely lengthy synopsis--I quickly became intrigued by the premise of the story. While preserving the human mind in a robotic body is not a new concept, Barnekov spins a creative twist by adding ALS, a supernatural guardian, and time travel to the mix. I especially like his ability to balance believable technological and medical advances with the more abstract concepts of supernatural intervention and time travel. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the protagonist's wealth ensures unlimited financial resources. However, Barnekov doesn't disappoint when it comes to describing the mansion's luxurious amenities. Readers who enjoy the first book of the series will anticipate implied sequels featuring future missions with Barnekov's memorable characters.
Barnekov's relatable cast of characters includes two strong women; both Savannah Richards and Ansley Barnett are intelligent problem-solvers, and major portions of the plot depend on their contributions. Savannah's ongoing medical research results in the lifesaving brain extraction preservation procedure. Ansley's accolades include leading the development of a cyborg that appears to be human. While her top-secret government project with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is being developed for injured soldiers, Kristian and Aaron become viable cyborg candidates due to the debilitating nature of ALS. In addition to the characters' strengths, Barnekov portrays their vulnerabilities through their interactions, such as Ansley's reaction when Kristian is diagnosed and Savannah's response when her brother is injured. Barnekov lightens things up by introducing a spiritual being who is described as having shoulder-length blond hair and wearing a trench coat, jeans, and boots.
The book contains one instance of borderline profanity and plot-related sexual content that is more indicative of robotic endurance than it is explicit. However, I dislike the inclusion of a spiritual entity watching one of the encounters: "The two then continued with their third round of lovemaking, both blissfully unaware of the supernatural being, who Kristian referred to as The Guardian, patiently watching them." This description evokes a mental image that strikes me as creepy and off-kilter with the rest of the plot.
Unfortunately, I am required to deduct a star due to the number of punctuation errors. However, with a bit of polishing, the book has the potential to earn the highest rating. In its present state, I rate Shepherds of Destiny 3 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to fans of sci-fi and those who enjoy reading about technological and medical breakthroughs. The book's creative plot may also appeal to readers who are not typically drawn to the sci-fi genre.
Shepherds of Destiny
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