Overture is the story of the end of the world. A Near Earth Object, previously thought to be in a safe orbit, has mysteriously shifted onto a collision course with our planet, and no one knows why. At the same time, a device has appeared in New York’s Central Park. One of 12 placed by aliens. It may represent an escape, but only for a small fraction of the population, and only if the team studying it can figure out what it is.

In the meantime, the other 11 devices have inflamed tensions around the world. As certain factions come to realize what the device is, a possibility of escape from the devastation of the impact, violence and conflict erupt as they vie for access and control of the portals.

This story introduces us to Mindy Patoy, a disgraced former astronomer, as she tries to decipher the purpose of the device, how it works and where it leads. Further complicating the issue is that this device, like each of the 11 others around the world, will only transport 144 individuals before shutting itself down. She must try to survive, as various different groups try to seize control of the device for their own ends, all before a world killing asteroid destroys all of humanity.

Overture is the first book in a series of four available, with more forthcoming. It is, as far as I can tell, Mark Wandrey’s first published work, and self-published, at that. I went into it with some trepidation. Mark is someone I know and talk to online, and I’m always a bit leery or reviewing someone I know. He didn’t ask me to read it, nor know I was planning on reading or reviewing it. My plan was, in fact, to give it a shot and if it was bad… we would never speak of it again. As far as I was concerned, it would never appear here. At least, not from me.

And yet, here it is.

It’s good. Really good. All of the technical aspects of a good, professional author are there. The dialog is believable. The characters act on believable motivations in believable ways. As to the story itself, it flows very well and I found myself reading deeper and longer, just one more page, one more chapter. This does not appear, to me anyway, to be the effort of an amateur.

As a fan of science fiction, I found the science to be solid, believable, and internally consistent. To me, there is nothing more likely to jar me out of an otherwise good story than just bad science. I have no problem with McGuffins, mind you. You know, those plot devices, like faster than light travel, or laser swords, or portals to other worlds for that matter, that the author asks you to accept when we don’t have the science to back it up. That’s not bad science, it’s just speculative, and that’s OK. Mark has his McGuffin in there, but no bad science.

I will say that it isn’t the absolutely best book I’ve ever read, but as I look over to my bookshelf, I see Tolkien, Pratchett, Herbert, Heinlein and McCaffery, so best book is quite a high hurdle. On the other hand, I honestly think that Wandrey can go on that bookshelf in good company and deserving of inclusion. In fact, I’m going to give the best one-sentence evaluation I think I can give an author or a book in a series.

It’s time to buy the next book.