If you’ve read Syrus Durham’s previous sci-fi novel, “Short Time”, then you’re already aware that he knows how to generate suspense. With his follow-up novel “Desperate Measures” he uses a similar premise: a hard-driven scientist by the name of Veronica Logan is inadvertently reduced to a tiny fraction of her original size as a result of a revolutionary new process she’s developed. This time, however, he adds some important additional elements to the mix: humor, warmth, romance and sterling character development. The result is a moving and completely absorbing fanciful tale that not only doesn’t overstay its welcome but might even leave you wishing that you’d had the opportunity to spend a little more time with its (mostly) personable and appealing cast.
Readers whose hearts are set to racing by terms like “reversed polarity of the neutron flow” and involved discussions of how reduction in height relates mathematically to corresponding loss of mass will get their fill of that sort of thing here. Likewise, readers with a taste for eroticism that, shall we say, falls somewhat outside of the norm---one tender scene vividly answers Veronica’s question “How would they without her getting hurt?” as she ponders spending time alone with her now-much-larger husband---will find that here, too. People who couldn’t care less about any of the above will still be in luck, though, because this is, first and foremost, a touching love story between Veronica and her estranged husband Derek, and they’re a couple well worth rooting for. Durham neatly and effectively fills in the backstory of the couple’s charming courtship, marriage and eventual estrangement through flashbacks that are interspersed throughout the story. The factors that serve to tear them apart are all too commonplace, even as the circumstances that help bring them back together border on the magical. As Veronica and Derek are forced to make accommodations for the changes in their relative sizes, they likewise become reacquainted with each other emotionally, both of them shifting their priorities and fighting their way towards meeting each other somewhere in the middle of the wide gulf that’s grown between them. It’s an extremely clever parallel.
There are dark forces at work conspiring against them, though, and midway through the story another impediment presents itself to come between them. To spoil the fun by giving away its identity would be unthinkable; suffice to say it’s most unique and makes an already complicated situation exponentially more difficult for the pair. While the peril that little Veronica is sometimes placed in during the course of the story is truly harrowing---especially during an explosive, action-packed climax---the author clearly feels highly protective of her, warts and all, making this an exhilarating adventure rather than an oppressive ordeal. Often poignant but never wallowing in moroseness, with one running gag that verges on the broadly comic but doesn’t lapse into silliness, this tale expertly hits all the right notes.
Against all expectations everything is resolved in a highly satisfying manner, and Durham ties everything together with a closing sentiment that manages to be both clever and wonderfully heartfelt. Most highly recommended.
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)