A UFO craze has hit Trumbull, TX, a little town outside Houston. It starts when Pops Dickey, a transplanted farmer from Wisconsin, discovers one of his cows dead one morning. He calls the local police, who call a local vet because the cow has been slaughtered with little or no blood spilled on the ground. Not the norm for vandalism. The vet labels the killing the work of aliens, and that’s the cue Pops needs to step into the media limelight.
Aliens had visited Trumbull. They took some cow parts as souvenirs. Pops Dickey will tell you all about it and make up more along the way. Police Captain Graham Lattimer won’t have any of it, and when another cow dies, he wants to resolve the two incidents in entirely human terms.
In Houston, Mike Walsh is a magazine writer, who has been assigned a background story on UFOs with a few details from the Trumbull encounter to make it relevant. As he does his research, he is fed up with the hype and tumble of alien books and TV shows until he meets a philosophy and culture professor, Samuel Bering, who seems to know more than anyone else about alien phenomena. But for all of his knowledge, Bering has neglected wisdom, and now he hopes to gain a secret knowledge that will lift him above everyone in the world.
In another part of Houston, a troubled young man gives in to the voices in his head and starts killing people, because this isn’t actually a book about visitors from outer space. It’s a book about an ancient evil.
And it’s fun. At one point, Mike Walsh says the events are getting too much like Peretti, which is a great comparison for Otherworld. The pace and plot read like This Present Darkness with an important difference. Jared has chopped up his narrative with short news reports, journal entries, and brief scenes of other characters. It has a TV feel to it, maybe a bit of artificiality, but I wasn’t annoyed by it. It helped the story move quickly.
While the characters aren’t depicted very deeply because of the fast-paced story they are in, they are all well-rounded. For example, the pastor, Steve Woodbridge, isn’t the Bible-quoting pillar of strength nor is he a villain. He’s a burned out, materially successful preacher, who wants to follow the Lord and may not be very good at leading his church. His character arc is beautiful.
Otherworld is a good story without Amish people falling in love or frowning on those who do (as Jared notes on his blog). If you have been a Thinklings.org fan for a few years, you may notice some familiar names for background characters. I don’t doubt that his next novel will be twice as good as this one and the following one twice as good as that.