|genre||Science Fiction, Thriller, Speculative Fiction, Action/Adventure|
|release_date||8 May 2010 (USA)|
|media_type||Print (Paperback) also Kindle ebook|
|pages||280 p. (paperback edition)|
|isbn||ISBN 1452828199 (US paperback edition)|
Talus is a 280 page SciFi Adventure novel that deals with neanderthal derivatives hidden deep inside a rain forest.
Rylan and his partner in crime, anthropologist Ursula Deiss, push deep into a dangerous rain forest in Madagascar with a group of scientists. In the jungle, they find a population of cryptic man-like primates. Their discovery quickly draws them into a vortex of an ancient conspiracy that is bound to change mankind's destiny.
Enriched with extensive facts drawn from the fields of anthropology, swarm intelligence, and information science, Talus takes the readers from one vibrant location to another, zapping them from Madagascar's uncharted rain forests to Oxford's dark libraries and from Paris's melancholic back streets to Sicily's sunny vineyards.
The story opens when Rylan Walker, a 28 year old doctoral student with multiple degrees in chemistry, engineering, and computer science, arrives at a small airport in Madagascar to join an expedition that is set to take place in the uncharted Masaola Rainforest, home to countless species yet to be discovered. A beautiful anthropologist, named Ursula, 26, meets him at the Maroantsetra Airport in Madagascar.
At the base camp, he meets with the rest of the team. Kutsnetz, a veteran anthropologist leads the expedition. Among other team members are Ivy League professors Johansson and Linden. And there is Tiana, a lovely young Malagasy woman, an excellent cook and their guide in the jungle.
At dinner, the conversation comes to Madagascar’s famous myth; the Kalanoro, the legendary man-like animals believed to read people’s minds and see the future. A wise Malagasy doctor named Eloi joins them at the dinner table and tells a story about how his life was once saved by a kalanoro.
The first task is to trek through a dangerous tropical jungle, which would take them to the North Camp, the main base of the expedition. During their strenuous journey in the rain forest, a number of bizarre events happen.
At the North Camp, Stickland, a middle-aged scientist greets them. She surprises the group when she reveals a pile of fossils she discovered during her excavations in a close by cave. There is no doubt that the bones belong to a hominid that possibly evolved from Neanderthals. That is quite puzzling considering Neanderthals didn’t exist when Madagascar split from the mainland a hundred million years ago. How did those primates end up in Madagascar?
Vladimir and Vladka get Rylan’s attention; the two men are armed head to toe, sporting AK-47s, projecting a peculiar view for a scientific project.
Kutsnetz believes that the jungle is home to a Kalanoro population and he desires to capture one. He gives Rylan the task of setting up an image processing system that would help them find the creatures in the jungle. Stephanie, a young Brazilian technician assists Rylan.
In the meantime, Rylan finds himself increasingly attracted to Ursula. The pair is drawn to each other as they both become concerned by Kutsnetz’ suspicious behavior.
One night, Rylan’s system captures imagery that is possibly triggered by a kalanoro rambling in the jungle. Vladka and Vladimir rush into the forst but return empty handed. Vladka is somehow wounded and now bleeds. What looks like a small scratch turns deadly; his muscles contract uncontrollably, causing his bones to crack, which eventually kills him. While everyone is in complete shock, Kutsnetz declares a poisonous insect byte as the possible cause of the man’s death.
The following day the team heads to a talus, a monumental geological formation composed of a steep rocky slope. It houses an intricate labyrinth of caves that are likely to contain scores of fossils. Ursula starts a solo descent into a deep cavern where she discovers a hidden grotto. It is full of burnt primate bones, remains of smashed archeological equipment, torn books, and most shockingly two human skeletons in charred clothes. Everything indicates an explosion that had taken place long time ago inside the grotto.
Ursula reports her observations to the team but keeps certain details to herself. Later, she secretly reveals her distressing discovery to Rylan. What gives her chills are the two words, she saw on the cave wall, apparently written by the dying archeologists: “Massacre” and “Danger”.
At night, when everybody is asleep, Ursula and Rylan head to the talus to search the grotto. Out of blue, a group of manlike creatures emerge from the jungle and start chasing them. At the same time, Rylan hears Stephanie’s alarming voice coming through their walkie-talkie; the camp is also ambushed.
Rylan and Ursula manage to escape from the creatures by climbing down the cavern.
Their search inside the grotto uncovers a disturbing truth; the explosion was indeed a sabotage that aimed to annihilate the whole kalanoro population.
Rylan and Ursula discover an exit from the cave, which lead them into an intertwined underground cave system. After passing grottos, caverns, hidden passages, tunnels, and underground rivers infested with roaches, scorpions, and crocodiles they find a safe spot to spend the night.
In the morning, they finally reach the camp where they face with complete desolation; Stickland, Kutsnetz, and Johansson are the only survivors of the kalanoro’s attacks. The rest is dead.
Kutsnetz has two captive kalanoro infants and despite Rylan and Ursula’s protests, he is determined to keep them. He sees the creatures as his prize, which will make him rich. Kutsnetz who now possesses all the weapons, forces Rylan and Ursula to stay with the group.
The team has no option but get out of the kalanoro-infested jungle as fast as possible. As the group pushes deep in to the rainforest, a heavy downpour starts. Suddenly, Johansson falls and starts to slip down through a mud trail. He disappears behind the dense tropical foliage. The group desperately searches for him but he is nowhere to be found. They conclude that he was kidnapped by kalanoro.
The group resumes their hike and reaches to a sunken forest. They inflate a raft and paddle towards a safe-looking small islet in the middle of the lake where they would spend the night.
At dawn, they are woken up by a kalanoro attack. The creatures bombard the islet with poisonous arrows from the shore. Tiana and Kutsnetz are hit and killed.
Ursula, Rylan, and Stickland manage to take refuge behind a rock. Out of blue, Stickland produces a pistol and points it at Rylan and Ursula and reveals that she’s been on a mission to exterminate kalanoro. She orders them to hand her the little creatures. Her plan is to infect the kalanoro infants with chicken pox virus. Once freed, little creatures would join their families and start infecting the rest of the kalanoro population. Eventually, all would be killed by the disease. She readies a syringe filled with the virus.
Suddenly, they hear a voice “Drop your gun!” It is Eloi pointing a riffle to Stickland. They both fire at the same time, shooting each other dead. Eloi once saved by kalanoro pays back his due to the creatures.
Ursula and Rylan set the little kalanoro free. They hike back to the camp where they setup their tents to spend the night.
In the morning, Rylan realizes that Ursula is missing. He finds a note that says:
“Don’t speak to anybody about what happened. Be silent or Ursula dies. Go to 10 Rue Goute d’Or, 38, Paris, if you want to see her alive.”
Now, he is in Paris, climbing the stairs of an old building. His destination turns out to be a small one-room apartment with no furniture except a table, a chair, and a mattress. Suddenly the phone rings. Rylan picks up. It’s Ursula. She orders him to take the pills on the table. Rylan obeys. The pills make him fall into a deep sleep.
When Rylan opens his eyes, he finds himself lying on the mattress still in the same apartment. Ursula walks towards him and shushes. They are being listened to.
They leave the apartment from the roof.
When they reach a safe place, Ursula explains everything. She is a part of an ancient secret organization that controls manlike creatures with supernatural powers. The creatures are referred to as othermen. The whole purpose of the society is to exploit othermen’s premonition skills to reach their goals. The Organization is so paranoid that it doesn’t even bare a name. Its real structure is unknown even to its own members. Although Ursula is in the Organization, her knowledge is limited.
The Organization keeps a population of othermen under captivity to exploit their precognitive powers. But there are also free othermen in nature beyond the control of the Organization; only they are known with other names; Yeti, Bigfoot, Saskatchewan… Kalanoro.
Kalanoro who live freely in the jungles of Madagascar are definitely a threat for the Organization. If the world learns the existence of precognitive creatures, they can connect the dots and uncover the Organization. Therefore, the kalanoro must be gotten rid of.
Ursula has been an obedient member until the day she learned that her father had been murdered by the Organization. Now she is determined to destroy it.
Ursula and Rylan have now target signs on their foreheads. The Organization can’t let its existence be known. They will come after the pair.
Among his many talents, Rylan is also an ethical hacker and keeps a sophisticated bot-net for himself just to use it in rainy days like these. A bot-net is a stealthy army of smart computer programs, crawling all around the cyber world. He re-programs the system; should something happen to Rylan and Ursula, bots will trigger a chain of events that would blow the Organization’s cover. So the bot-net keeps the Organization from killing the pair. At least for now…
Ursula and Rylan head to Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris to talk to Dr. Moncel who is Ursula’s point of contact in the Organization. From a reluctant Moncel, they manage to extract the information that reveals their next stop, which turns out to be Nice. There, they meet Olivier Rougier who is a global transportation expert. His responsibility is to ship the Organization’s secret cargos around the Globe, which makes him very knowledgeable about its clandestine activities.
Rougier met Ursula’s father about two years ago while Rougier was having money problems due to his indulgent life style. Ursula’s father helped him pay for his debts. In exchange, Rougier relayed him invaluable information about the Organization’s inner-workings.
Rougier who has his own reasons to hate the Organization urges Rylan and Ursula to get their hands on an archaic manuscript kept in a library in England.
Rylan and Ursula walk to the information desk at Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies in Oxford. The problem is that the only registered scientists are admitted into the building. Ursula convinces the librarian girl (Christine) to have drinks with them at a nearby pub. After a couple of beers, Christine accepts their bribe offer in exchange of her secretly letting the pair in to the library at midnight.
Ursula and Rylan find the manuscript on the second floor. The document turns out to be a dull inventory book. However, after careful examination, Rylan discovers a hidden text, embedded into the obscure inventory entries. It embodies a compendium, which spells out the enigmatic procedures followed by the Organization to conduct their precognitive sessions with kalanoro. In other words, it is the ultimate operation manual that enabled the Organization to predict the future.
Suddenly, terrifying news barges in. Through a text message to his cell phone, Rylan learns that his bot-net is destroyed. Now, they are exposed.
A window shatters downstairs. An assassin sent by the Organization climbs the stairs approaching them slowly. They exchange fire. Rylan quickly fabricates a handful of Molotov cocktails out of the bottles, containing inflammable solutions used for restoring the antiquated artifacts. He hits the man. When the man gets busy with putting off the flames on himself, Rylan locks the assassin inside the chamber using the library’s control system. Next, the fire extinguishing system quickly replaces the oxygen with Argon gas to extinguish the fire. The assassin, trapped inside the room suffocates.
Rylan and Ursula start a journey back to Madagascar. They need to put the compendium to work. That is the only way to fight the Organization.
In the meantime, Rylan starts to have recurring dreams where he sees a kalanoro rolling down the talus against a crimson sky.
When they reach Madagascar, Ursula and Rylan lose no time to embark their expedition in the jungle. As they hike through the rainforest, suddenly they fall in a trap, rendering them unconscious.
When they open their eyes, they find themselves circled by a group kalanoro. Here the story returns to the starting point (prologue). Suddenly Johansson emerges behind the creatures. That is a relief. He has been living with the kalanoro since he got lost in the jungle.
Now that they live among kalanoro, Rylan and Ursula start to apply the techniques written in the compendium.
One day, while walking in the forest, Rylan and Ursula get almost caught by helicopters sent by the Organization. A couple of days later, in their second encounter with the copters, they are not as lucky. Two helicopters open fire with machine guns. Rylan and Ursula take shelter inside a cave.
The cave starts to fall apart under a barrage of rockets. With the help of kalanoro infants, Rylan and Ursula escape through a small hidden tunnel.
One day, Jabba, the chief kalanoro, leads Ursula and Rylan to a temple-like underground chamber. Using his telepathic powers, he projects a message from Dr. Walmer who was a scientist killed by the Organization a long time ago in this very jungle.
Walmer explains everything. Unbeknownst to the organization, the othermen has an upper collective intelligence, similar to ant colonies. Totality, the super-being created by the sum of all othermen, represents something much grander and more capable then any society. Totality is an independent life-form with its own consciousness. Unlike any other organism on the planet, its existence forms a singularity in the universe, allowing it to bend the time-space continuum. When the time comes, Totality will get rid of the Organization’s human elite by replacing them with the othermen in its conquest to rule the world.
However, Totality has a weak spot. A mutation occurred a long time ago, causing kalanoro to deviate from the rest of the othermen society. Although they possess the same powers, kalanoro are not controlled by Totality. They are truly free and independent beings.
Paranormal Channel is the elusive medium that carries precognitive activity. Totality’s wellbeing is dependent upon its hegemony on the channel. Kalanoro, if organized, can cut Totality’s lifeline by manipulating the channel. Therefore, they are mankind’s only hope against Totality’s imminent dictatorship.
Later, as Rylan, Ursula, and Johansson walk in the forest, Rylan looks at the talus. He sees Jabba on the hill against a crimson sunset. Suddenly, something hits the creature and he topples. It’s a bullet shot from one of the Organization’s helicopters. His lifeless body rolls down the talus. Rylan sees the other kalanoro, walking towards their death. The talus, surrounded by the copters, gets swallowed by an inferno. Confident that they eradicated the whole kalanoro population, the helicopters leave.
But they are wrong. Infant kalanoro emerge from the forest, gathering around Rylan and Ursula. Now, the little creatures’ future lies in their hands.