This was a review that originally I was somewhat excited about writing. The novella was written by a friend of my and self-published through Lulu.com. After he received a few copies of the printed book; he put one of my desk with a note thanking me for my opinions on a rough draft some months back and asked me to give the final version a read. He’d also asked that I post my thoughts here on CoffeeBear.net.
Unfortunately, the arrival of the book happened at something of a bad time for me. I was busy with work getting things filed away and ready for me to take my 2 week trip to Japan. I’d started to read the book and was interested to see where it was going; as none of it looked familar to me. Alas in my hurry to pack, I forgot to stick the book in my bag. So for two weeks, I had to wait to finish the last half of the book. I was busy enough during those weeks to not particularly mind the delay but when I got back; I was busy for a while and didn’t immediately pick it back up. When I finally did; I remembered enough of the story that I could continue without starting over but my interest in the book had waned somewhat in the interval.1 After finishing it, I realized that wasn’t really a fair reading of the book and decided to set it aside for a time to let my memories of the book drain away to give it a fairer reading.
This review is based on that 2nd reading.
In 193 pages, Clifton appears to be trying to tell 3 seperate stories. That of Dr. Brian McKart, a scientist who believes a friend of his may dead and another is in danger while the mysterious Soo pushes him to solve a mystery. That of Sharon LaSalle, a woman who was attacked and was taken away under odd circumstances. And finally, that of Special Agent Grace Rainwater who was investigating Sharon’s disappearance. Dr. McKart’s story is the central one to this novella and it is interesting to see how Clifton twists and turns McKart’s view of reality until the man isn’t sure if he’s experiencing something truly beyond his understanding or whether he’s trapped in an ultimate virtual realty game. Clifton tries really hard to blur the line between reality and virtuality for Brian but upon multiple rereadings this seems to fall a bit flat. Maybe I am just not clicking with the metaphysicalness of the story but while Brian seems to be struggling to remain sane; I’m finding it difficult to believe he let himself get into the situation to begin with.
Sharon LaSalle’s story seems to be marginally more interesting as her disappearance from the normal world can be explained as either: being killed, being kidnapped & hooked to a VR simulator or as simply moving to an alternative plane of existance. Which really happened? You’ll need to read the book and judge for yourself; as I’m still puzzling it out. Sharon’s story doesn’t receive quite as many pages as Brian did and that’s a shame because these sections of the book seem more interesting to me.
Lastly there’s the story of Special Agent Grace Rainwater. Her story is the least fleshed out of all and boils down to a simple investigation of a complex matter but there’s several unanswered questions here (e.g. why does she work so hard at the case) that the novella would have really benefited from having answered.
Overall, I give this book 3.75 stars out of 5. Again given my background with the novella, my issues with the story might be just that. MY ISSUES. To know for sure, you’ll need to read it yourself. It’s an interesting premise but but the more I read it; the less I can sympathize with the main characters. For a first effort, I’d say it’s good work but I’d like to see more depth to the characters and something that would allow me to sympathize with them better.
1 Sorry, Clif but them’s the breaks.