CSFF Blog Tour – Numb By John Otte, Day 3

Numb-CoverThis month’s CSFF Blog Tour feature is a rare science fiction novel, written for adults and published by Marcher Lord Press. Numb by John Otte, a Christy Award finalist, is a stand-alone, though some reviewers believe there is room for a sequel, should John care to revisit this world again. I admit, I love the universe he imagined, but this story seems well-ended to me, and I don’t have any particular need to see these characters again. But since I’m already opinionating, I suppose I might as well get right to my review.

The Story. Crusader is the perfect assassin: dedicated to the cause, loyal to the authorities over him, determined to complete his missions, and completely numb. He doesn’t feel emotion and he doesn’t feel pain. What’s more, he believes God has gifted him with this numbness so that he can take up the sword of judgment and wield it against those his superiors have marked as deserving of death—heretics, infidels, traitors, and the like. Above all, Crusader is good at what he does. In fact he’s the best the Ministrix has.

Imagine the uncertainty, then, when Crusader discovers, first, that he cannot complete his latest assignment—to assassinate an engineer named Isolda Westin—and second that some Ministrix agent has set him up and intends to kill him.

His inability to plunge the knife into Isolda’s heart is perhaps the most troubling thing Crusader faces. Something within him refuses to follow what he knows he must do. But why? And why is he, the most loyal, most accomplished Ministrex agent, now a target of the very leaders he has served these past ten years?

With these questions at the heart of the plot, Numb jumps into a tale of intrigue, suspense, action, and romance.

Strengths. There is so much to like in this story, but I think my favorite is the worldbuilding. It’s a little rare, I suppose, to put the element that most often fades into the background as the aspect of the story I liked best, but for me, the sense of place, without being bogged down by a lot of techno terms or details I didn’t care about, made the whole story more enjoyable. I thought there was just the right amount of science/technology mixed with the right amount of facts about the governments that dominated the populated universe to give me a feel for what the characters had to contend with.

Furthermore, the inventiveness seemed believable—a logical outcome of the way technology is advancing and of the way governments are behaving today.

I also thought the central theme was wonderfully woven into the story. Nothing seemed forced. The characters themselves, as a natural part of who they were and the predicament in which they found themselves, dictated the theme. It was never delivered in a heavy-handed manner, though I guess you’d say the “faith elements” were overt.

I liked the characters as well, though I have to admit, when Isolda appeared in chapter three, I felt quite relieved. I wasn’t sure about spending an entire book in the head of a numb assassin, no matter how justified he was in his own mind for doing what he did.

The plot was exciting, built as it was on intrigue. There were fight scenes, chase scenes, betrayals, rescues, hypocrites acting hypocritical and spies acting nobly. There were plenty of twists though the plot never became convoluted. Important elements were properly foreshadowed, so little felt as if it didn’t belong.

But that brings me to the next part of this review.



Perhaps the only part of the story I didn’t find believable was the sudden attraction Isolda had to first one assassin, then the other. To her credit, she didn’t realize that Balaam, who appeared to be her rescuer, was actually there to kill Crusader and kidnap her. But here’s the thing—she showed definite signs of attractions to a complete stranger. Then when he is killed, she quickly shows interest in the agent who defeated him—the one who she knows is there to kill her.

This tendency to be easily won over to a man could have been a character trait of Isolda’s, except she had no such response to the one guy she actually had known for some time and the one she had shared experiences with and who seemed quite willing early on to protect her.

In short, the contrast between the way Isolda reacted to Gavin and to Balaam, then Crusader, made her actions a little hard for me to believe.


Apart from that plot point, I had no problems with this story. The writing was straightforward, the characters well defined, the surprises plentiful.

Recommendation. I’m happy there’s a quality Christian science fiction novel to go along with the growing number of excellent Christian fantasies. John Otte has done a wonderful job giving readers an enjoyable story that also provides sufficient meat to chew on. I highly recommend this book to all readers. It’s a must read for fans of Christian science fiction.

As it happens, all John Otte’s books, including Numb, are discounted at Marcher Lord Press. However, these prices are only good through April.

CSFF Blog Tour – Numb By John Otte, Day 2

Numb-CoverThe Christian science fiction novel, Numb, by John Otte, has a good number of surprises, but one is not how the book got its title. The main character, known for most of the book as Crusader, works as an assassin for the Ministrix, one of two dominant governments in the universe, this one claiming to be linked to the True Church. The assassin understands his role as that of executioner. He carries out the judgment against infidels, pagans, and heretics as his superiors order.

Crusader believes himself to be the perfect man for the job because God has gifted him with numbness. He can feel neither pain nor emotion. Consequently, he is single minded about his missions. He is not distracted by fear or guilt, and he is not slowed by pain or doubt.

At first this condition of numbness seems pitiful, at least to me, and I think to some of the characters in the book. Crusader has been conditioned by his handlers to believe his numbness is a provision from God. But not to feel joy or love or hope or anticipation or gratitude or excitement or satisfaction or even regret or sorrow, seems as if Crusader is missing the core of what makes a person human.

Even pain is a beneficial and necessary component for life, or so I understand from reading a story about a leper who gradually lost his sense of touch and no longer registered pain in his extremities. Each night he did a self examination to be sure he didn’t have some untreated cut that could become infected. Otherwise, his fingers and hands and feet could become gangrenous and would have to be amputated.

Feeling is vital.

But as I read Numb, I realized that a good deal of the population in western society lives to feel numb. In fact, many self-medicate, drink, do drugs or dive behind a computer, lock in on the TV, play round after round of the latest version of their favorite game, all in order to be numb to the real world around them.

Whether via the world of pretend or the vicarious competitions of sports or music or dance or survival, people are holding at bay unhappy spouses, too high credit card bills, nagging bosses, crying children, unkempt lawns, taxes, traffic, gas prices, corrupt politicians, aging parents, you name it.

When the world and its problems close in, sometimes it feels too overwhelming. If we allow ourselves to feel the crush, we’ll explode, so we scramble for whatever will numb the pain.

We may not take up a mission like Crusader did, but we act as if our numbness is a gift from God.

But it wasn’t for Crusader, and it isn’t for us. God isn’t about numbing us from the experiences he’s put before us. In fact, one of the things the Christian has been given is abundant life. That’s not only a future provision; it’s a present provision. And to live life abundantly means the opposite of numbing ourselves, insulating ourselves from the effects of our experiences.

Paul summed up the difference: Do not be drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit. Don’t rely on a depressant, a substance that induces forgetfulness and a lack of control. Instead, be filled with the One who guides us in all Truth, who is the source of joy and patience and gentleness and self-control and love.

He might as well have said, Do not be numb.

– – – – –

Take time to check out what other bloggers are writing about in conjunction with the Numb blog tour. There are a couple excellent interviews with John Otte you won’t want to miss: Shannon McNear‘s and Keanan Brand‘s day two posts. Jason Joyner, who has met John and hung out with him at conferences, has some interesting tidbits and even an interesting picture you’ll have to see to believe. 😉 You’ll especially want to learn how to Otte-fy your story, if you’re a writer.

John himself has a great post about how he came to write Numb. Highly recommend.

Published in: on April 22, 2014 at 7:23 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Shadow Lamp by Stephen Lawhead – CSFF Blog Tour, Day 2

shadow lamp cover

Making Too Much Of A Thing

In “Science And Pseudo-science” I mentioned a writing principle author and writing instructor Orson Scott Card laid out in Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy which Stephan Lawhead ignore in The Shadow Lamp, this month’s CSFF feature.

The principle is this: science fiction writers are to know the rules that make their world work, make sure readers understand these rules exist, then move on with the story. Using starflight to illustrate his point Mr. Card says it this way:

Make your decisions about the rules [of your world] and then make sure your whole story doesn’t violate them. But your reader doesn’t have to go through all that with you. Once you’ve decided that you’re using a difficult, dangerous hyperspace where the emergence points can shift by parsecs without warning, then all you have to do is drop some reference into the story–perhaps a single sentence . . . That’s it. That’s all. No more discussion of starflight. (Emphasis in the original.)

As I read those words before I picked up The Shadow Lamp, I thought of the Bright Empires series and considered that Mr. Lawhead had followed this principle. He’d introduced readers to “ley lines” in the first book The Skin Map, making a point to differentiate between this space/time travel and “regular” time travel. I thought this was Mr. Lawhead’s way of handling the inevitable problems that arise in time travel. The subject seemed to be much the way Mr. Card recommends–a science fiction law that explained the way the world worked so that all kinds of story events could happen.

However, in the middle of The Shadow Lamp there’s an entire chapter devoted to a theory one of the characters has about ley lines. As it turns out, this explanation is also tied to a later theological/scientific discussion-lecture that takes place which establishes the cosmic stakes before the characters.

At that point, ley lines no longer seemrd like a device put in place for the sake of the story but rather, the story seems to be taking place in order to give a platform for the discussion of ley lines and all the attending detail–the multiverse theory, the rapid expansion of the universe, the purpose of Creation, a reinterpretation of time, and more.

In my way of thinking, the device stopped being a device and started to become the essence of the story. Perhaps that’s what Mr. Lawhead intended all along. I was disappointed, however.

The concept of time-reversal (linked to the theory of the expansion of the universe based on the choices people make), while interesting, does have theological ramifications as several blog tour participants have pointed out (see for example this one).

Overall, however, I felt a good story was going on and a couple chapters of exposition explaining the ley line and theological theories a couple of the characters were considering, interrupted the flow. The catastrophic potential which was supposed to be illumined by this theoretical enlightenment simply did not seem like a credible threat. I was much more concerned by what the Burleigh men were doing than by this possible cosmic crisis.

For me, Mr. Lawhead made too much of the rules he established, rules I was happy to go along with until he decided to explain them to me.

But maybe that’s just me.

Full review yet to come.

Be sure to see what the other blog tour participants are saying (see the list and links at the end of the Day 1 post). You might especially be interested in Meagan’s excellent Bright Empires series overview; Christopher Hooper’s ideas on the generational legacy uncovered within the stories (“How we live today affects those who live tomorrow”); and Robert Treskillard’s giveaway.

The Need for Christian Worldview SF/Fantasy

I’ve mentioned this in passing a time or two, but recently the point has come home more forcefully. Speculative fiction is hugely popular in the culture, but for the most part, since there has been little Christian science fiction or fantasy published, the genre is driven by those with an opposing worldview.

But what makes this particularly different from suspense or mystery or literary fiction, movies, or television? After all, CSI isn’t Christian, and neither was Murder, She Wrote. Mysteries have a long history, with few surfacing as Christian, and no one seems to think this is a serious problem. So why would it be for SF/fantasy?

Simply put, because of the required tropes. In a mystery, a crime is committed and someone has to solve it. Justice triumphs. There is little leeway. In science fiction and, more so in fantasy, good clashes with evil. Good wins out. But, and here’s the central issue, what is “good”?

Spec Faith blogger Stephen Burnett wrote in his post yesterday about the British sci-fi television series Doctor Who. From what he says, I thought of the Star Trek: Next Generation or Voyager or Deep Space Nine or even Enterprise. All those showed essentially a fight between good and evil, but good was defined as sentient life that is willing to do no harm to other sentient life. Those wonderful shows primarily said night in and night out, Can’t we all just get along? No matter the sexual orientation or the cultural practices—unless said practices harm others.

I called them “wonderful” because they built these captivating worlds and populated them with interesting people, but I also think the programs reinforced a solid humanist worldview. Certainly, for a Christian aware of this, the shows were informative, providing a basis for understanding our culture. And yet, there was that “reinforcing” aspect.

In some ways, this is the question, Does art reflect culture or influence it? I suggest the answer is, Yes.

Which brings us back to the issue of the need for a Christian worldview in SF/fantasy. While humanists have been defining good and evil for some time, now atheists are beginning to do the same. And New Age writers, Buddhists, Mormons …

Once, even in works by a-religious authors, a good/evil struggle nevertheless mirrored Truth. But with writers shaping good after their own image or in the image of their favorite idolatrous religion, good has been turned on its head.

I was reminded of this just last Wednesday when I saw the Spiderwick Chronicles at our local dollar theater (which charges $1.50 😉 ). In that movie there is a clearly defined evil, but good? Not so easy to spot. The closest representation of supernatural good was actually more concerned with self-preservation than with anything else, even becoming an antagonist at one point to those trying to defeat the evil.

And who was fighting evil? Humans. So, the real good vs. evil struggle was humans vs. supernatural evil, with supernatural good sort of neutral—sometimes aiding and sometimes hindering.

God? Not present.

Is this the Truth we think art should reflect … or the influence on society we would like to see prevail?

CSFF Blog Tour – The Shadow and Night, Day 2

If I weren’t locked into titling CSFF Blog Tours by the format you see in this post, I would have called this one World Building. Seldom does “setting,” one of the necessary elements of a novel, get front line billing in discussions of craft. With the exception, perhaps, of science fiction or fantasy. Without a doubt, the more imaginative the place, the more important it becomes for the reader to grasp the setting.

Chris Walley in The Shadow and Night, first in the Lambs among the Stars science fiction trilogy written for adults, does a remarkable job building a world that feels familiar and foreign at the same time.

The story takes place in the far-distant future, and Earth (or Ancient Earth as it is known) has expanded across the galaxy, terra-forming worlds into Earth replicas. The Shadow and Night opens on Farholme, a world in progress at the far reaches of the Assembly of Worlds.

On one hand there is this very “other” feel, as people travel through space by gate technology and on there ground via six-wheeled Light Groundfreighters. On the other those colonizing the world work toward its continued development, riding horseback, at times, and living in isolated, small villages. There is a remarkable tension between the advanced science and the primitive pioneering conditions.

The closest I’ve come across (and you need to remember, I’m not well-read in science fiction) to creating a similar world is Kathryn Mackel in her Birthright Project. In that story, however, the Earth had succumbed to the ravages of war. Thus the primitive.

In The Shadow and Night, the primitive is actually a result of advancement as the frontier continues to push toward the outer edges of the galaxy. It has such a natural feel, especially for anyone familiar with the settling of the American West—except, of course, the sculpting of the land to copy Ancient Earth.

In addition to the unique advanced/primitive tension, the world of the Lamb among the Stars trilogy feels dense, complex, believable, in part because of the maps and charts accompanying The Shadow and Night. But this world is not just about the geography of the place but the history of the people. It feels set in time, with peculiar cultural anomalies not found in other worlds.

Chris Walley has expertly crafted perhaps the most important element of science fiction—the world where his story can unfold.

I’ll let others on the blog tour discuss the theology connected to the fact that this world is a result of thousands of years of peace, initiated as a result of people turning to worship God. You can see what these bloggers have to say through tomorrow: Brandon Barr Jim Black Justin Boyer Grace Bridges Jackie Castle Carol Bruce Collett Valerie Comer CSFF Blog Tour Gene Curtis D. G. D. Davidson Chris Deanne Janey DeMeo Jeff Draper April Erwin Beth Goddard omitted from original list posted at CSFF Marcus Goodyear Rebecca Grabill Jill Hart Katie Hart Michael Heald Timothy Hicks Christopher Hopper Jason Joyner Kait Carol Keen Mike Lynch Margaret Rachel Marks Shannon McNear Melissa Meeks Mirtika or Mir’s Here Pamela Morrisson Eve Nielsen John W. Otte John Ottinger Deena Peterson Rachelle Steve Rice Ashley Rutherford Chawna Schroeder James Somers Rachelle Sperling Donna Swanson Steve Trower Speculative Faith Robert Treskillard Jason Waguespac Laura Williams Timothy Wise

Published in: on February 19, 2008 at 11:05 am  Comments (5)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The Shadow and Night, Day 1

While the CSFF February tour is featuring The Shadow and Night, I want to include information about author Chris Walley.

For starters, he is one of the contributors at the Christian science fiction and fantasy team blog, Speculative Faith. You can see all of his posts, with topics ranging from fantasy and theology to a discussion of Phillip Pullman, by clicking on this link.

For another, Chris is a Brit (which may explain why he’s not been in the bookstore nearest you to sign autographs 😉 ), a Ph.D, a geologist, a husband, a father, a teacher, an occasional preacher. And then there’s that writing thing.

Under the pseudonym John Haworth, Chris published two thrillers, Heart of Stone and Rock of Refuge (why is it authors choose to write under a different name?) Some years later, he turned to science fiction and wrote The Lamb among the Stars series.

The first two books were published in the UK, then picked up by Tyndale. Two years after the books came out in paperback, the publisher decided to produce the entire series in hardback. Consequently, the first two books were repackaged under one title, the book we are featuring, The Shadow and Night.

Later that year (2006), the second hardback volume, The Dark Foundations, came out. The final novel in the trilogy (formerly the quartet), The Infinite Day, is coming out later this year. Which is especially good news for readers who hate to wait in between series.

From now through Wednesday, there will be discussion about Chris’s work, and possible about his theology. Could get interesting, but then CSFF isn’t necessarily known for it’s uneventful tours. 😉

Take time this week to see what others have to say about this adult science fiction:

Published in: on February 18, 2008 at 12:47 pm  Comments (10)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Wayfarer’s Journal, Day 3

As part of the blog tour focusing on Wayferers Journal, I decided to review one of the short stories from the first issue published in February.

I should mention that WJ is more than an anthology of short stories. Founder and editor Terri Main has a vision for creating a community centered on science fiction. As such, the WJ site has regular chats, and Terri hopes to build on that foundation. In addition, the Journal has some poetry along with essays and reviews.

And speaking of reviews, back to the subject at hand. I chose for review “The Reconstructed Man” by Johne Cook.

The Story. This interesting short story delves into the question, What makes a man. In some future period, when technology has advanced to the point that androids can appear to be human, one such wealthy, independent android meets with the protagonist for an apparent interview over lunch. During their discussion, however, it becomes clear that they both share a secret, one with deadly consequences and with resurrection implications.

Strengths. I’ve made no secret that science fiction is not my genre of choice. It was with some feet-dragging that I finally wadded into this story. At first I considered doing a “one page edit” a la Marcus Goodyear, but surprisingly, the further I went, the more I wanted to continue. There were just too many unanswered questions.

Which brings me to one of the main strengths of the story. Author Johne Cook did a masterful job creating tension coupled with suspense. The first few sentences served to hook me at once:

The man sitting across from me in the restaurant wasn’t technically human. It is true he used to be a man, and other than the government-mandated purple eyes, he looked like one now.

I, of all people, knew better.

From that start, there was one question raised after another, even as answers began to dribble across the screen.

I also liked the way Cook wove in the spiritual questions without bringing the story to a halt. Instead, the spiritual came into play naturally because of who the characters were.

Weakness. I am certainly no expert when it comes to this genre, but one thing jumped out at me. While there were some significant developments—air cars, artificial beings, waitress touch pad, instant at-the-table payment, laser guns, and so on—that establish this as distinctly futuristic, Cook relied on some very current phrases and analogies such as “house of cards,” and “cornered animals.” He even maintained some technology that seemed inconsistent—helicopters with gunmen sliding to the ground on ropes, for instance, and they stilled Googled for information.

Certainly not everything in the future would change, but the technological advances seemed a little uneven. Why would ground transportation advance but not air transportation, as an example. And why would they still use the same kinds of cliches that are common today (his tie felt like a noose, for instance). I would expect at some point the out-moded items would fade from the vernacular.

But what do I know? Not a sci fi person!

Recommendation. For those of you who are sci fi people, you will love this story and undoubtedly many of the others you’ll find at Wayfarers Journal. I highly recommend you take some time over your Christmas break and treat yourself to science fiction of the short variety.

Also, stop by the other blogs discussing the genre and the Journal: Brandon Barr Jim Black Justin Boyer Grace Bridges Amy Browning Jackie Castle Carol Bruce Collett Valerie Comer CSFF Blog Tour D. G. D. Davidson Chris Deanne Jeff Draper April Erwin Marcus Goodyear Andrea Graham Jill Hart Katie Hart Michael Heald Jason Joyner Kait Carol Keen Mike Lynch Margaret Rachel Marks Melissa Meeks Mirtika or Mir’s Here John W. Otte John Ottinger Rachelle Steve Rice Cheryl Russel Ashley Rutherford Hanna Sandvig James Somers Steve Trower Speculative Faith Jason Waguespac Laura Williams Timothy Wise

Published in: on December 19, 2007 at 1:02 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour – Wayfarer’s Journal, Day 3  

CSFF Blog Tour – Wayfarer’s Journal, Day 2

When choosing books/web sites to feature for a blog tour, it is often a difficult decision. What if we point people to something new that doesn’t meet their expectations, and they trash it? But what if we only feature the tried and true, how then will people discover and support the new and upcoming?

Thankfully, CSFF Blog Tour has an administrative team that discusses just such pros and cons when making the decisions what to highlight each month. But my intent is not to give a window to the behind-the-scenes working of the tour.

Wayfarers Journal bannerInstead, I wanted to lay the ground work for my comments about Wayfarer’s Journal, a new, up and coming science fiction webzine, not yet a year old.

Interestingly, founder and editor Terri Main already gave a rather objective review of the site, pointing out some areas of improvement that I hadn’t thought of.

My impressions on visiting Wayfarers Journal of course are from one outside looking in. I found a site that opens quickly and easily (important especially to those of us still using dial-up), has a clean over-all appearance, is easy to navigate from page to page, includes all the main things I’d want to look for except contact information (there is an address for submissions, but a place to send questions and comments would also be helpful).

I like the mission statement, delivered up front on the home page. Although science fiction is not my genre of choice, I think what Wayfarers Journal is doing is critical. I remember how I felt as a fantasy fan when all seemed bent the other way. Nowhere could I find the kinds of stories I loved (which is one reason I started writing. I was under the delusion that the stories weren’t out there because no one was writing them rather than that no one was publishing them).

I also like some of the goals Terri envisions. You can read more about what she hopes to accomplish in an informative interview with Jim Black.

Other CSFF’ers have reviews of some of the stories, thoughts about the importance of Christian science fiction in formulating our ethical standings about the technologies just around the corner, and a mixture of both. It’s well worth the time to read what others on tour are saying: Brandon Barr Jim Black Justin Boyer Grace Bridges Amy Browning Jackie Castle Carol Bruce Collett Valerie Comer CSFF Blog Tour D. G. D. Davidson Chris Deanne Jeff Draper April Erwin Marcus Goodyear Andrea Graham Jill Hart Katie Hart Michael Heald Jason Joyner Kait Carol Keen Mike Lynch Margaret Rachel Marks Melissa Meeks Mirtika or Mir’s Here John W. Otte John Ottinger Rachelle Steve Rice Cheryl Russel Ashley Rutherford Hanna Sandvig James Somers Steve Trower Speculative Faith Jason Waguespac Laura Williams Timothy Wise

CSFF Blog Tour – Wayfarer’s Journal, Day 1

Notoriously science fiction glorifies … or condemns … the rational. It is, above all else, an extrapolation of what is know into what might become. Consequently many science fiction stories are either utopia in the making or dystopia and the consequences. At the center is man.

Not surprisingly, Christians have not had a large representation among science fiction writers, but that is changing. One on-line site dedicated to science fiction written from a Christian perspective is the fledgling webzine, Wayfarer’s Journal.

As stated on the home page,

Our mission is to develop a venue to publish and review science fiction with a spiritual dimension.

Sound intriguing? I suspect science fiction fans out there are jumping for joy!

Yes, there are other sites that include science fiction, but in this present fantasy craze, the science fiction seems to take a back seat. So for those who love the “how it works” or the “science behind it all” kinds of stories, written from a Christian, not a humanist, perspective, at long last there is a site dedicated solely to the works you love.

During this tour, I hope to take a closer look at the site and at some of the stories. In the meantime, enjoy yourself at Wayfarer’s Journal or at any one of the participating tour blogs:

Cross-posted at Speculative Faith.

Published in: on December 17, 2007 at 12:29 pm  Comments (6)  

Because I Promised — A Review of The Return

In September, during the CSFF Blog Tour for Austin Boyd, I promised a review of The Return when the CFBA tour featured the book because I did not finish reading it. For some reason, I didn’t realize the CFBA event ran for only two days, so missed it. I intended to post my review over at Spec Faith last night, then thought better of it.

This is actually quite hard, and I’m only doing it because I said I would. You see, as much as I loved the series over all, especially considering that it is science fiction and I generally don’t read science fiction, the third book was a bit of a let down. I hate to write that.

I’m not changing my mind at all about my recommendation of the series. You can read those reviews here, here, and here. But the truth is, Book 3 of the Mars Hill Classified series may have suffered from the CBA rush to put out a book every six months.

I could be wrong about that, but the end felt rushed. In part. It also felt slow.

I know those two statements don’t seem compatible, but here’s what I mean. And be warned, from this point on there are spoilers.

As to the “rushed” part, I felt some of the characters didn’t have proper motivation: May for following bad-guy scientist Rex all the way to Mars (and remaining loyal to him) when it seemed apparent he was having an affair with reporter Adrianne. (Not to mention that she gave her daughter a Bible and a cross but didn’t apparently believe what she’d written in the front of the Bible).

Another character with motivational problems, in my opinion, was the evil mastermind behind the plot—her reasons were sketchy at best.

Ultimately the “evil” came from a government, which was not developed properly, in my opinion. Foreshadowed, yes, but for three books we’re caught up with the evil machinations of specific people, only to learn that we were looking in the wrong place.

Which brings me to the slow part. From the beginning of The Return, those we rooted against, for the most part, are dead. The only “bad guy” we want to see foiled is a dupe for someone else. It’s hard to care greatly that the man gets his, when he believes what he says and is doing what he’s told.

In addition, because each book is written from multiple points of view, we the readers already know what is going on, whereas the characters do not. John, for instance, does not know his wife is still alive and being held captive. Amy does not know John has returned to Mars. So much of the story of The Return is the characters learning what we already know. These sections were slow, I thought.

All that being said, I am still glad I read the series, and especially glad I read the first two books as well and not just The Return. Perhaps without the first two books, I wouldn’t have found The Return to be slow-paced, but I also would have missed out on the riveting suspense of the second book.

Austin has done a great service to science fiction fans. Yes, it is “near science,” nothing far flung, but rather taking existing science to a possible next step. The books address big issues and make readers think about the ethics connected to our technological advances. These are necessary points for us to consider, because surely, if we don’t, a Rex or Malcom Raines or Dr. Bondurant will.

Published in: on November 1, 2007 at 11:30 am  Comments (2)  
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