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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Facing Wonder by Jeff Christopher Leonard is speculative fiction that revolves around Julian Wonder, a 46-year-old neurosurgeon in Las Vegas who leads a structured life filled with work, family, and a passion for meteorite hunting. With his sister Mags working with him at his clinic, Julian conducts innovative procedures targeting mental health conditions, connecting with art teacher Mary while discussing potential treatments for her daughter's autism. Tragedy strikes when a family member passes away, but Julian reconnecting with Mary leads to positive change attributed to a meteorite impact. A visit to an alternative therapist sparks conversations about personal limitations, leading Julian to consider attending an ayahuasca retreat. However, when a one-in-a-billion chance injury during the retreat incapacitates Julian, unexpected shifts in the health and welfare of those in his sphere spark uncertainty, initially jubilant, until it becomes something more.
Wow, this book was not what I was expecting at all! Facing Wonder by Jeff Christopher Leonard is a wildly creative blend of science fiction and the metaphysical, and it explores the depths of humanity that we cannot see and fail to comprehend. I loved that Leonard sets Julian up as the protagonist in a story that touches on the most organic fabric of nature, in Las Vegas, which is arguably one of the most artificial environments in the world. It is also near one of the greatest extraterrestrial hotspots, making Julian's obsession with space debris more intriguing. The writing is clean and straightforward, and the cast of characters that builds up around Julian is integral to everything that occurs as part of the plot. To impart pieces of Julian's backstory, as well as his sister Mags', we are fed morsels of their upbringing and family as Leonard bends the arc. Overall, this is a wonderfully thought-provoking book with a lot going for it and a variety of ways it can branch out further. Very highly recommended.