Goodbye to the Sun, by Jonathan Nevair: A Review

An aging, alcoholic diplomat with memories he cannot face, filled with cynicism and guilt in equal measures, is taken hostage by freedom fighters seeking to use him as a pawn in negotiations. But the worlds of the known and inhabited galaxy have been the sites of many battles for power and dominance, and no one can be trusted. Nor, perhaps, can trust be given to memory, love, or family.

Keen is the diplomat, seeking in his chosen second career to forget the people he loved and could not – or did not – save, and the approval of his father, who makes no secret of his disdain for his son. Razor is the freedom fighter, raised in the harsh deserts that are all that left of her once-verdant planet, before the winds were captured for energy, and the ecosystems destroyed by the ruling Targitians. Together they are played by the ruling powers, buffeted by factions as politically strong, and as deadly, as the Wind Tides of Kol 2, Razor’s home planet.

Goodbye to the Sun is packed with action and political intrigue, but it is also a deeply philosophical novel. Echoing themes (and perhaps structure) from Antigone but addressing issues of privilege, gender identity and climate change within the greater questions of the tension between love of family and love of an ideal, it contains some of the most elegant and provocative writing I’ve come across in some time. It made me think, but at the same time was a fast-paced, intelligent space opera with characters I card about: a hard balance to create and maintain, but debut author Jonathan Nevair has done it.

Goodbye to the Sun is the first of a planned trilogy. I look forward to the next book immensely.  


Visit Jonathan Nevair’s website for more information.

The Quantum Ghost, by Jonathan Ballagh: A Review

In the same near-future world as Jonathan Ballagh’s The Quantum Door, a young girlQuantum Ghost called Remi sees a glowing dome in a pond near her house…a glowing dome that is almost immediately snatched by a hand that rises from the water.  Shortly afterwards, strange dreams begin; Remi finds herself writing strings of meaningless numbers…and then parcels begin to arrive, parcels containing items that she is compelled to put together.

What Remi builds takes her into the same world of technological wonder and menace that Brady and Felix entered in The Quantum Door.  But The Quantum Ghost, while building on events in the previous book, can successfully be read as a separate, stand-alone book.  Characters overlap, but they are introduced again, and any previous history relevant to this book is given in a natural way.

The target audience for The Quantum Ghost is middle-grade students.  Ballagh’s prose and pacing is perfect for this age group; the science is presented in a comprehensible manner without over-simplifying it or talking down to the reader. The action is rapid, but with enough character development to create empathy and identification with Remi.

As in The Quantum Door, Ballagh manages to take what could be clichéd scenes and turn them into truly frightening images. There are some quite dark scenes (age-appropriate) in the story, so a young person with a vivid visual imagination might find the book a bit difficult in places, but Remi is a heroine who faces dangers with courage and initiative. In both this frightening alternative universe and in her ‘real’ life, she acknowledges her fears and confronts them.

The artwork by Ben J. Adams, both on the cover and the interior illustrations, is brilliant, perfectly complementing the story.  Highly recommended for ages twelve to sixteen, or for less confident, slightly older, readers.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Escaping Infinity, by Richard Paolinelli: A Review

Losing their way on desert roads, and nearly out of gas, Peter and his work partner escaping infinityCharlie are relieved to see a hotel – a magnificent, modern hotel – standing alone on a highway.  They check in, only to find, like in the Eagles’ Hotel California, they can’t check out.

Peter and a rebellious receptionist, Liz, attempt to escape the Hotel Infinity; Peter’s explorations and their escape attempts make up the first part of the book. This part is a pretty good science-fiction story; there are a few issues with pacing, but overall, I would have given it maybe four stars.  The problem is, it’s only the first section of the book.  The second section is, basically, an outline: written in primarily passive voice, the reader is told what occurs over the next several hundred years after the climax of the first part.

Spoilers after this point!

Author Robert Paolinelli should have, in my opinion, taken the time to create this story, not hand the reader a summary. As a two or even three book series, Escaping Infinity could have expanded into an thoughtful exploration of redemption, responsibility, and the realistic problems in the attempted creation of a second-chance utopia.  Even when the chosen people have escaped hell-fire; even when their leader has god-like properties and apparent eternal life, for the society to evolve as problem-free as it is described here stretched my belief beyond its breaking point. Stories depend on conflict, tiny conflicts, large conflicts, to propel them forward, and the second part is a narrative almost free of any struggle.  I found it immensely disappointing.

As a result, Escaping Infinity is only getting a 2 1/2 star review from me.  Good potential, unrealized.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Shattering Glass, by Connor Coyne: A Review

Universities run on thought.  It’s why they exist: to share thought, to foster new thought, toShattering Glass turn thought into something, tangible or intangible, new to the world.  But what if they ran on thought in a different way, if thought could be turned into power, not of the kind wielded by politicians and heads of corporations, but the sort that turns on lights, runs motors, boots up your laptop?  And what would happen to those whose thoughts were channelled into that power?

In a rust-belt town in Michigan, a businessman creates a new university on the grounds of an abandoned psychiatric hospital. First-year students Samo, Monty, Ezzie, and Dunya share a residence floor, below ground in the Calliope Cradle. None is quite sure how he or she ended up here, but the angst of first-year adjustment is more than enough to occupy them.  But even in the confusion of buying overpriced and unaffordable textbooks, joining clubs, figuring out where to eat, and discovering mid-terms can be in almost any week of the semester, they come to realize something wicked this way comes…or rather, is already here.

Complex, intricate, perhaps a little self-indulgent (like its protagonists at first), Shattering Glass is neither straightforward nor stereotypical. It contains elements of steampunk, Greek tragedy, absurdist theatre, and film noir, all wrapped up in a superficially Harry Potteresque setting transported to a failing industrial city.  But it also delves into some difficult questions….what does happen to a personality subsumed into a university’s -or a universe’s -power system? How do we stay ourselves? Can we? At what price?

This won’t be a book for everyone. Its non-linear narrative, metafiction techniques, and elaborate detail does not make it an easy read.  But if you read Vonnegut, give Shattering Glass a chance. I’m giving it 4.5 stars here on my blog, which will translate to five on Amazon and Goodreads.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A Gleam of Light: Book 1 of the Survival Trilogy, by T.J. & M.L Wolf

Drawing on ‘documented’ UFO sightings, Hopi cosmology, and some non-mainstreama gleam of light interpretations of various petroglyphs, religious practices, and experiences from around the world, A Gleam of Light pits a young Hopi woman and a reporter against the U.S. Army in a race for the secrets buried deep within a cavern on Hopi land.

The concept of using the cosmology of a people whose beliefs can be interpreted to mesh with UFO and alien sightings isn’t new – I’m old enough to remember – and to have read –  Chariots of the Gods, by Erik Von Daniken (although that was marketed as non-fiction.)  It’s a decent premise for a book, and in many ways A Gleam of Light reminded me of Dan Brown’s books, building a story around a race to interpret symbolic messages left by a previous generation.  Throw in some action and settings reminiscent of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, and you’ve got the general idea.

But while it’s a decent premise, the Wolfs don’t quite pull it off.  The book suffers from a number of structural issues: uneven pacing; exposition disguised as conversation (usually almost monologue) to give background or explanation; coincidences that stretch credulity, solutions to dilemmas that just come a little too easily.  I think there is a good adventure story here, and one more rewrite under the guidance of a good developmental editor could have brought it out.  As it stands, 2 ½ stars.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.