Quest combines ancient myth, dystopian future

“The Ariadne Connection”

Sara Stamey

Western Washington University creative writing instructor Sara Stamey has combined myths of antiquity with a dystopian future in her new book, “The Ariadne Connection.”

Set amidst the Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea, this tale follows the quest of researcher/healer Ariadne Demodakis, daughter of the despotic leader of an aggressive new political entity called the Mediterranean League.

Following Gulf War 3 and some nuclear warfare hanky-panky, the planet is suffering through epic geomagnetic storms, and a polar reversal seems imminent.

In conjunction with the storms, a new leprosy pandemic is sweeping through human population centers all over the planet, but Ariadne and a couple of her colleagues appear to have discovered some properties in certain springwaters that have effected some healing.

To do further research, Ariadne must get off the heavily fortified island where her controlling father has kept her as a virtual prisoner.

Enter Peter Mitchell, a “freelance import expediter” who skippers an AWOL Turkish spy boat disguised as a fishing trawler. Peter was hired by Leeza Conreid, a hopped-up paparazza who eight years earlier had been Ariadne’s college roommate. Now Leeza seeks an exclusive interview with the healer despite the fact that she’s been unavailable to any media. The Med League intercepts Peter’s boat before they ever get to the island, but Leeza flashes a blue crystal ring that the soldiers identify as belonging to Ariadne’s family. They’re brought ashore and “persuaded” to stay – or risk execution.

Ariadne recognizes that Peter has smuggler’s know-how, and she convinces him to help her get off the island. Of course her obnoxious old roomie Leeza insists on tagging along. They escape during one of the violent storms that have come to bedevil the Aegean, and embark on Ariadne’s quest to find a cure for the pandemic.

The author is a globetrotter who has spent years on land and at sea exploring exotic locales from Greece to New Zealand. Her adventures help to inform the intricate details of this adventure, which takes place on islands of the Mediterranean, and undersea as well.

Beyond the physical characteristics of place, Stamey creates a convincingly chaotic dystopia with populations of desperate players – bellicose governments, ruthless terrorist groups, doomed leprosy victims, religious groups, pharmaceutical mercenaries.

All of this is overlaid by terrifying environment forces – harsh weather, geothermal activity and tsunamis – Gaea’s wrath directed at the transgressions of humanity.

And then there’s the NeuroLink technology – people like Leeza have opted for spinal insert surgery which allows them to plug into experiences of intense stimulation, from news to sex. This is, frankly, shocking stuff – but given the increasingly sophisticated and invasive entertainment devices coming onto the market today it is not an entirely illogical prediction of future technology.

At nearly 400 pages, this story runs longer than it needs to – the quest should be onerous, but not so much that the reader loses interest.

“The Ariadne Connection” is an ambitious effort that draws connections between humanity’s moral compass and the well-being of the planet we live on.

The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at bkmonger@nwlink.com.