This novel uses this as a plot device to strip the character of the use of any metal or anything with a magnetic field. It’s as if they are throw back into the old west but anachronistically instead of steel and iron they have ceramics, plastics, and carbon fiber. In this background we drop a street rat, Kimble/Kim, who is like Orson Scott Card’s Ender Wiggin but with dexterity. On the journey our street rat meets a female Kwai Chang Caine -like character who proceeds to take him as a pupil learning how to wax-on, wax-off. The next thing you know a CIA agent shows up and recruits Kim to infiltrate a drug cartel and other missions. There were so many things thrown in that the reader was left with a potpourri that actually worked.
Like any superhero genesis story you needed the right combination for factors in the right quantities to create Kim. My problem with the story is that it seemed to let Kim grow up too fast. In a Card novel Kim would be 13 for the whole novel. Another problem is that the characters are not moving to try to solve the core antagonistic device in the arroyo, the bugs. It would seem that everyone should be trying to find a way to destroy or disrupt the bugs so that the middle of the US could be reclaimed.
In summary if you like the Crichton novels formula then you will enjoy this author’s characters and this story. It is a fun read.