by Michael Offutt
While the author previous "Slipstream" was filled with a lot of wild stuff, "Oculus" is far more down to earth--probably because it takes place on Earth and not the parallel world of Avalon with all its far-out technology. This probably makes it more accessible for more casual readers than the first book.
Jordan Pendragon has returned with his twin sister Kathy from a stint in Avalon. He resumes his normal life at Cornell, where he majors in Physics and plays on the ice hockey team. At the same time he uses the supercollider at the school to study Antarctic ice samples in order to locate the "Black Tower" that holds the key to saving Avalon and Earth from the evil Shadow.
Then Jordan meets a young woman with a weird old stone called the oculus. A wacko religious group sort of like Opus Dei in "The da Vinci Code" also want the oculus, though for far different reasons. The battle for the oculus and its secrets ends up (appropriately enough) in Hell's Kitchen where Jordan and his boyfriend Kolin, his best friend Robbie, and his teammate Andy do battle against a bunch of demons who would be at home in a "Hellraiser" movie or one of the old Doom video games.
There might be a few too many eating, hockey, and snogging scenes for my taste, but overall the story is well-told. There aren't many mysteries wrapped up, just a few more pieces to the puzzle. As I said at the beginning, since this is mainly situated on Earth it's a little more approachable for more casual sci-fi readers than the first book; there are fewer alien concepts to grasp and far more familiar settings like upstate New York and New York City. Book 3 promises to be exciting as we get to learn more about Excalibur and Jordan's connection to it. So if you haven't already, you should definitely get into the series now.
That is all.