‘30 years after the establishment of the Nevermind intelligence agency and their Occult Revival still held sway over reporters as much as ever.'
California author Tantra Bensko has published ten books and I included in a number of anthologies. Her degrees include an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop and she has studied the methods of social engineering through manipulation of mass beliefs which she blogs about social engineering at Agents of the Nevermind. Tantra teaches fiction writing through UCLA X Writing Program, Writers.com, and her own Online Writing Academy. GLOSSOLALIA (‘Glossolalia or speaking in tongues, according to linguists, is the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning’) is a psychological suspense thriller that is Book 1 of her series The Agents of Nevermind. REMEMBER TO RECYLE is Book2, and now ENCORE is Book 3.
Tantra pulls us into her novel with a mixture of all the elements we will encounter as the novel moves forward – the bizarre, humor, concepts awaiting to be developed, and a fine image of our protagonist – ‘A cardboard rectangle blew against the gym window with a bang. A poorly drawn green stone dominated the sign, with the words spray-painted below it: “FREE THE MOLDAVITE!” It stuck in front of my face before sliding along the glass. Stragglers ran along the street, struggling to hold onto billowing signs with slogans like, “REGULATE GEM SALES.” A spidery tree branch flew through the blustery air. Though I saw the limb, bracing myself for the bang, I still jumped and grabbed my stomach when the wood struck the glass. My friend Colin and the others operating the exercise machines let out their breath in sync after the branch slid to the ground; the glass remained intact. Colin put a comforting arm around my shoulders. That very first time that I experienced his touch produced a startling buzzing throughout my body, coinciding with the biggest lightning strike I’d ever seen. I spun toward him and he hugged me tight. With my eyes closed, the thunder made me envision the golden shape of the branching electrical bolt in front of me -- in Colin’s body, extending into my own. Exercisers yelled in surprise, then snickered, setting off an uneasy boisterousness I took too far. Weather wasn't the only thing on my mind. “Did you feel that?” whispered Colin into my ear, his breath exciting me. “Absolutely.” But did he mean what I hoped he meant? The charge between us. Intensity of light force flowing through us. I stared at Colin while we worked out with a pull-down weight machine before my last non-performance of my troupe’s season. Trying not to let my obsession with a married hypnotist blind me to the charms of the single fellow right in front of me, I willfully opened myself up to ask a question. Is there more to this friendship than I realized? I watched his sculpted pectoral muscles under his tee shirt: at
thirty-five years old, he kept himself in good shape. Thirty-five and a half to be exact; exact was how he liked it. Precise movements. He did the proper number of repetitions on the machine each time.’
It is so rare to find a writer who can combine abuse, mind control, corporations bent on destroying the environment, and government conspiracies with cocky humor and a sci-fi overtones. But Tantra does just that. In her synopsis enough of the story’s secrets are revealed to entice the curious reader – ‘Miriam and her friend Colin touch for the first time -- electric. After the gym, he takes her to the theater for her job as a standby. She's prepared to substitute for the star, Susan if anything goes wrong. Susan's husband, the Bennu performance troupe's hypnotist, Dune, has made them famous throughout England. Their show dramatizing esoteric history of earth's rarest gem, Moldavite, recreates myths of a history justifying royal ancestral rights to rule. He's hypnotized the standbys to believe they're the actors they pretend to be. When the curtain goes down, they snap out of it, remembering their true identities. Susan and an actor go missing. Miriam gets her chance to substitutes for Susan. Colin watches in the audience, ready to explore their dawning romance. Dune whisks her off stage before the curtain falls, triggering releases the post-hypnotic command. He abducts her to a castle, as her "husband" and as a magician.’
Tantra’s story is mindboggling – in a good way. While films and television series attempt to push borders of belief with the help of CGI, Tantra accomplishes this goal better with just words. She is extraordinarily fascinating. Highly recommended for thinking readers. Grady Harp, October 18
Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.