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Book Review of "As Seen in a Mirror", by Caleb Rocke


 As Seen in a Mirror, by Caleb Rocke, is a political/mystery thriller that begins with an introductory teaser from the conclusion which sets the stage, hints at the plot, and introduces major characters. Josh Cunningham is employed as a truth-seeker and field agent for a mega-industry firm called SEH. He is faced with searching for the truth behind a conundrum of mysterious worldwide happenings. His challenge is to discover how the present has morphed from the past.

Rocke's novel, written prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, actually deals with the unexpected ways that a pandemic can influence not just the public health but culture and politics and economies as real life has taught us. The plot makes parallel and oblique references to history-making events in the year 2020. The novel is set in the United States in a technologically advanced future.  Global warming has caused humans to have allergic reactions to the sun.  A raging pandemic disease seems to induce madness in the afflicted. The later stages of the disease appear to cause the infected to become a physical threat to others and self-destructive. They kill those around them and mutilate themselves. Bodily deterioration makes the infected human display rabies-like symptoms and appear zombish. Cosmic activity causes talk of alien intervention. Terrorist attacks and cyberattacks reported by the mainstream media, as well as social media alarmists, complicate Josh's job to find the truth. Only by discovering the truth behind the terrifying morphing chaos can the scientists Josh works for, develop a cure and a preventative vaccine for the pandemic.

The novel follows several other characters whose paths cross. While Josh works in the Midwest, two elderly men live quiet lives in a touristy but bygone era of small shops in Savanah, Georgia. They try to stay informed of the mysterious threats to humanity by watching TV and relating events to their personal history. Some people think Jim is intellectually slow because he is hugely overweight and slow-moving, but "his fascination with the demise of humanity" shows an intelligent mind as he and friend, Patrick, inquire into the madness.

The reader will ponder how the author was able to relate the novel so well to the strange happening in the year 2020, since lead time for editing and printing a manuscript are time-consuming, and this novel was published in 2020.  Is it a coincidence that the author is so intuitive; are more of his premonitions awaiting us in the future?

Rocke, also gives us a glimpse of tomorrow's technology. Hand-held 3-D holographic devices will replace cell phones and flat-screen TV. Multiple large holographic images will be projected for conferences and communication. Self-driving cars, futuristic gadgets, and the use of high-tech electronics could be an accurate prediction of future technology.

The author's statement, "good people don't exist, only mercenaries," seems to speak to the novel's "new normal." Politics, the distorted reflections of the truth (as seen in a mirror), are an image of the truth. Is the pseudo-reality that the darknet tries to expose a hoax? Is there a cure for the threat of madness? Is it true that 25% of the world's population is stricken with the pandemic? Chillingly contemporary. Unfortunately, real-life seems to have taken Rocke's narrative to heart and has begun to make his fantasy our reality.


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