Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hades by Candice Fox

Title: Hades
Author: Candice Fox
Publisher: Kensington Books
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

I have to say I wasn't too thrilled with the Kindle advance review copy of this novel. It wasn't even remotely correctly formatted for the Kindle. The page headers - such as the author's name and the novel title - appeared in the middle of the text because they weren't removed when the text was converted for the Kindle. In addition to that, there were random gaps and new lines in the text, mid-word and mid-sentence. The Adobe Digital Editions and the iPad versions seemed fine.

I know this was an ARC, and so not everything can be perfect, but frankly in this age of e-publishing, there really isn't any excuse for formatting issues of this nature. Hopefully this will not be the status of this novel in the final version. There were also one or two grammatical and similar issues which were a bit more understandable if regrettable, such as at location 547 (sorry, no page numbers in the Kindle - I don't know how much use a location number actually is (especially if you're not reading the ebook!), but the phrase was "cold, calculated businessman" and it really should have been something like "coldly calculating businessman" to make any sense. Unless, of course, they were talking about the corpse of a businessman which they'd designed, in which case it could well have been cold and calculated...!

This novel is really Dexter does Australia (it pretty much says so right on the cover). It's a first person PoV novel, which I normally rail against, but which in this case was one of the rare few which was not nauseating for that reason. It was told in an interesting way, because the narrator is not the main character. He's a cop who is telling the story, and it’s mostly about his interactions with an observations of his new partner, a seasoned cop by the name of Eden. She's a respected, tough and experienced cop who works on the force with her brother, Eric, but with whom she's never partnered for various reasons.

Frank, the narrator, is teamed with her after his own partner kills himself. Eden's partner was killed in the line of duty, we're told. Eden's brother Eric doesn’t take to Frank, looking through his personal stuff and generally irritating him as well as blabbing Frank's secrets (his drug use, his one-time punching of his ex wife, his DWI on his way to work. Despite all these violations, Frank is inexplicably still on the force. He and Eden get along, although she's made it clear she's not interested in becoming bosom buddies with him.

The two are thrown into a serial murder investigation immediately, with a score of bodies having been found after they had been dumped into the ocean in metal boxes. The most outstanding thing about he bodies is that various assorted organs have been surgically removed, so it looks like someone is harvesting the organs for wealthy (and none too picky) clients. The curious thing about this book is that, interspersed with these chapters, is an italicized insert here and there, talking about a character called Hades, who finds two lost and injured children whom he raises as his own despite not legally being entitled to do so. How that fits into the story isn't immediately clear, but when we learn that the children are named Eden and Eric, things start becoming more clear - or do they?

I have to interject a complaint here, and if you follow my reviews you knew this was coming! It concerns wasted trees. In an ebook, which is what I read in this case, this isn't a problem (although a larger file size does mean more energy is required to transmit and maintain it), but if a book goes to a print run, then the more white space you have on your page, the more trees are going to die in order to feed your book. It’s not a smart move to be contributing to bringing down trees en masse in an era of all-but-runaway climate change.

I'm not suggesting that writers and publishers cram every square millimeter of white space with text by any means, but as you can see from the sample image on my blog, the chapter title page is about 85% white space and the regular pages are not much better. At first I thought this was an issue only when viewed as an ebook or in Adobe Digital Editions, but when I took advantage of the "look inside" feature on-line, it appeared to be exactly the same, so I have no reason to believe the print book will be any different. I understand that there are aesthetic, practical, and artistic considerations in play here, I do. All I ask is that writers and publishers not forget the big picture. Every one of us can make a difference.

That said, I started out linking this book, but soon found that the shifting perspectives became irritating at first and then outright annoying before very long. This is the problem with limiting yourself by employing first person PoV. It’s not a voice that you should use unless you really know what you want to do with it, and it failed sadly in this instance. The severe handicap of 1PoV is that you can't show anything that's not directly witnessed by the narrator, which is an awful limitation to impose upon your story telling unless you really have a first class, iron-clad reason for it - and most authors do not.

If you've stuck yourself with this limitation and then discover that you haven't planned too-well and need to add a larger perspective, you're stuck with a clunky info-dump from a third party, or you have to go the even more clunky route of adding third person narration. This latter is what happened here, and it didn’t work. We kept having third person flashbacks to Eric and Eden's childhood, which proved to be a major spoiler, and then this was interleaved with the main narrator's first person, and with third person from the perspective of more than one other character! This made the novel seem badly organized and cluttered, and it really detracted from the story for me.

On top of that, the story was too dissipated, with focus being repeatedly dragged away from the case to the first person narrator's stalker-ish obsession with his new partner which was sick at best. The narrator wasn't a nice person which made me suspicious of his veracity to begin with, which in turn certainly did not help me to either like or trust this story. I can see why the author did it (can you say sequels?!), but the problem was that this was telegraphed, and this meant that there really was no mystery or intrigue here.

The narrator, and his interaction with Eden made the narrator seem like a lowlife to me, and he wasn't too smart, either. I had neither empathy for, nor interest in, him. I didn’t like Eric because he was just scum from the start: a caricature with villain garishly painted all over him, and I didn’t like Eden because although she was rather intriguing at first, she never grew and was never developed. She was more like a symbol, and not even a sex symbol, so what was she? What’s to keep me interested in a story where neither of the two main characters is remotely appealing?!

Almost worse than that, we'd get a bit of a cliff-hanger in the murder investigation at the end of a chapter, but then have to wait a chapter or two while the narrative wandered off to someone else's viewpoint before we could get back to the story which I was interested in! I found myself becoming more and more annoyed, and then skipping the dead zones, which in turn meant I wasn't always getting the whole story (although frankly I wasn't evidently missing much). By this time I already knew where this was going and had done for a while, so there really were no surprises in store and at about 90%, I just gave up on it. I'd lost all interest in it and really didn’t care exactly how it ended. I have no interest in being made to work this hard to get a good story out of a novel!

I can’t honestly recommend this one. The idea isn't exactly fresh, and the execution left a lot to be desired. Also, I really like trees and hate to see them so badly used! I think this author has a future, but not with this novel.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier

Title: Magic or Madness
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Publisher: Razorbill
Rating: WORTHY!

I fell in love with this novel right from the off, which is always a good sign as long as nothing goes south later, and it did not in this case. This is the second of Larbalestier's novels that I've read. The first was How to Ditch Your Fairy, and I rated that one a worthy read also. Is this the start of a relationship?! I have to say that this one was a bit annoying at first because the author/publisher chose to start each chapter with four or five words in a different and largely unintelligible font. There's no reason to annoy your readers like that, especially when you have so many other ways available to annoy and irritate them, but that's Big Publishing™ for you: a law unto itself.

The other thing is that there's this text divider symbol - like a sun with a smiley face in its center - employed in the text which is fine, except that it seems to appear randomly. Normally you'd use something like this to separate text in the same chapter which takes place at a somewhat later time, but in this case, these things seem to appear inexplicably at some indecipherable whim of the author's. Larbalestier seems intent in this novel upon randomly split text with these symbols, and with new chapters without much regard for the flow of what she's writing. I didn't experience this in How to Ditch Your Fairy. So this is slightly odd and somewhat frustrating, but it's not a deal buster for me.

This novel, which is the first in a trilogy (Magic or Madness, Magic Lessons, Magic’s Child), is set in Australia, so some of the lingo might be obscure. If you're a Brit, especially one like me with an interest in the Land of Oz, you can understand the bulk of it, but there's a glossary at the end of the novel for anything which proves too odd to guess at. Why the glossary is there rather than at the start is a bit of a mystery, but on to the story. Reason ("Ree") is a young Caucasian/aboriginal girl who has spent nearly all her life on the run with her mother Sarafina.

This precipitates the start of this story where Ree is forced to live with her actual legal guardian (her grandmother) because Sarafina is confined to a psychiatric facility. For her entire life, Ree's had it inculcated in her that her grandmother is an evil witch (not figuratively, but quite literally) who sacrifices animals. Ree is fearful of even talking to or looking at her grandmother Esmeralda (Mere) much less accepting anything from her in the way of food or drink. I didn't buy into this characterization at all. It seemed pretty obvious from the outset that Mere is not the "bad guy" here, and that Sarafina has been less than completely honest with her daughter. Plus: nut-job! (And there's a good reason for that, as Larbalestier reveals towards the end).

As Ree is planning escape routes from the house, much in the same way her mother did at an early age many years before, she encounters her next door neighbor, Tom, who has dreams of becoming a dress designer. Kudos to Larbalestier for not only breaking molds here, but for also not making Tom gay. The two bond quickly, because much in the same way that Ree can read people and situations, and has amazing counting skills, Tom is also gifted in evaluating his surroundings and picturing where people are in them. Whereas Ree sees things in numbers, particularly the Fibonacci numbers (a sequence you may recall from its use in The Da Vinci Code) or even your math class, Tom sees them in geometric shapes, pretty much like the designers of video games do. He pretty much tracks Ree climbing his favorite tree without even opening his eyes. He's really surprised to discover that Ree is much like himself. Yes, it would seem that Tom and Ree are going to be an item, but Larbalestier is smarter than that. At least I think she is!

Larbalestier dug herself into somewhat of a slippery hole by writing this in standard trope YA girl novel format. What’s up with that? Is it illegal to write a novel about a young girl unless it's told from first person PoV? I know it pretty much is in the US, but in Australia, too, they will clap you in irons and put you in the public stocks if you try to tell your story from third person?! No wonder they exported so many convicts to Australia from England. I’ll bet every one of them was a first person perspective novelist! Seriously, because she did this, Larbalestier has to awkwardly step out from that mode of narration into third person to describe Tom's perspective.

This problem is encountered repeatedly throughout this novel, and it's both really annoying and somewhat confusing. It's testimony to how much I liked the novel and especially Ree's strong character that I was willing to put up with this really ham-fisted way of telling this story. It screeched (yes, screeched) at me that I was reading a novel. Buh-bye suspension of disbelief; I think I can see it waving to me from that last bus out of town. Why can authors not divorce themselves from 1PoV for goodness sakes? Every novel does not have to be written that way, not even if it’s a YA novel about a girl, and not even if it’s dystopian! No, honestly! Get a grip authors for goodness sakes! Having got that out of my system, Larbalestier writes pretty well in general, if you can ignore the clunky changes in voice, and there's a lot of much-appreciated humor.

Tom's observation that "Reason did not climb like a girl" is a rather insulting and condescending claim - especially coming via a female writer. I've never know girls to be any different from boys in that regard, especially when they're Ree's age and younger. OTOH, it was Tom observing this, so perhaps we can excuse Larbalestier this time. Again, this is a problem with changing the narration voice repeatedly. That aside, Ree continues to defy not only expectations, but also her grandmother by hardly saying a word to her and by refusing to eat anything in the house. She also builds on her relationship with Tom. They visit a cemetery nearby and she discovers a disturbing trend in her family - the graves are mostly for women, and nearly all of them died young. Those who didn’t die young died in their early forties. Whatever she has, magical or not, it’s apparently some sort of curse! This is important for the ending of the novel.

Ree visits her mom in the hospital, and acting on her rather drugged-addled description finds what appears to be some confirmation, under the floor in the basement, that maybe her mom wasn't telling stretchers about grandma's witching activities and her evil mien. Pursuing her plan to escape, Ree finds a strange-looking key which apparently unlocks the back door, thereby opening up alternate escape routes. Not that she's exactly a prisoner! The problem with this key is that when she finally opens the door, she's not in Kansas, er Sydney, any more. Nope. Inside, looking out the window, it’s a hot Australian day, but using the key to pass through the doorway turns that into a freezing night in New York City! Ree has never seen snow and is at first oblivious to the chilling effect, finding everything odd and fascinating, particularly the snowflakes. It's nothing like the now familiar surroundings of Sydney.

The problem is that very soon, Ree realizes that she's wandered so far from the back door that she can no longer identify her grandmother's house amongst the cookie-cutter residences here. One would think her footprints in the snow would lead her right back there, especially if she's as smart as I’d been led to hope she is, but just as she realizes she's lost, we learn that there's someone in this new world watching her. Someone who's been waiting for Ree, expecting her to show up any time now….

The new character is Julietta, who goes by Jay-Tee, and who "works for" another person with the same abilities as Esmeralda. Even though Jay-Tee isn;t honest with Ree, the two bond, and when Jay-Tee's brother Danny shows up with some interesting news, it looks like Ree has found someone else to bond with, and maybe Tom has, in Jay-Tee. Just when you think this novel is over, with Ree safely home, she discovers something in her bedroom that shakes the delicate foundation she mistakenly thought she had under her feet at last.

I loved this story. I loved finding a resourceful, realistic, interesting, and strong female main character, and especially one who wasn't restricted to being white! I loved that naiveté is not confused with stupidity here. I loved that the novel was not forcibly set in the USA, because you know we can't possibly have an entertaining novel which isn't! I recommend this novel and I look forward to reading the two sequels.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lights Over Emerald Creek by Shelley Davidow

Title: Lights Over Emerald Creek
Author: Shelley Davidow
Publisher: Hague Publishing
Rating: WORTHY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.

This novel owes a lot to the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind but it's not that movie in written form, and if you stop reading after the first few chapters thinking you know where it's going, you'll be sorely mistaken.

Lucy Wright had a great life until that night she was driving the car in which her mother was a passenger, and some jerk ran a truck right into them head on. Lu woke up in hospital to discover that her mother was dead and she could feel nothing below her waist. From that point on, things got worse. She seemed to lose all her friends, because she couldn't stand to hear their pity, if nothing else. She dropped out of school and became home-schooled instead, which is often a sorry sign, but not aways, and not in her case. Her boyfriend stopped visiting without explanation, and her only friend seemed to be Nelson - a girl who was so-named because her abusive father had wanted a son. And pretty soon, Nel is hooking up with Craig, her ex. But Lu is fine with that. She thinks.

The only thing it seems which has kept Lu from finishing the job the jack-ass driver failed to do that night is the weird experiences she has had down by Emerald Creek: the very lights of the title. Lu had been learning the cello - another thing that seemed to go down the tubes after her accident, but now she feels a compulsion to bring it out and start playing again. That's no big deal until she takes it down to the creek one night and discovers that she can, in fact, communicate, after a fashion, with the lights. She thinks she can understand "the music of the spheres" and pretty soon she's online searching for information about what she's experiencing.

That's how she meets up with Jonathan Barkley, also a music lover, and the close encounter the two of them have isn't with space-ships and cartoon-ish aliens, but with another realm, another place somewhere, and with people just like her, and with one woman who seems to be the very embodiment of evil. Is Lu the only person who can stop her? If you want to know how to write an intelligent and mature teen romance (no that's not a paradox), ask Shelley Davidow. This is a smart, traveled, inventive and competent writer, who is unafraid to take you on a journey which in less capable and experienced hands might have been slippery territory. Not here. Not on Davidow's watch. Here's a story which is, refreshingly, not set in what far too many YA authors think is the center of the universe: the USA. It stretches its wings from Australia to Scotland to Norway - and to, er, elsewhere. And it has a truly independent and strong female main character whose name is definitely not Mary Sue. This was so refreshing.

I read this like it was going out of style. It's not. On the contrary, it's apparently coming into style, since it's volume one of the Emerald Creek series. I don't consider it perfectly well-written, there was the odd niggle and annoyance for me here and there, but overall it was excellent, and if you can get a cantankerous curmudgeon like me to 'need to read' what you've written, you know you have a winner on your hands. I've had to wade through some real clunkers this month so far, and it's finding a gem like this which makes all that wading worthwhile. I recommend this novel and look forward to the next volume. And I hope if Davidow is looking for beta readers for her next project, she'll consider me as a candidate! Yes, she's that good.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Have Wormhole, Will Travel by Tony McFadden

Title: Have Wormhole, Will Travel
Author: Tony McFadden
Publisher: Smashwords
Rating: worthy

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration of any kind for this review.

Errata in the ebook:
There are some really bad problems with quality control in this novel that a dedicated beta reader and a spell-checker would have fixed.
The biggest gaff is Sabrina's changing age. On page 26, Sabrina tells her dad in so many words that she's twenty one, yet on page 76 she says she's lived in the city for twenty-five years. Someone screwed up their back story!
On p54, there's also a misspelled Pasadena (spelled as 'Pasedna').
There's "Brom" Stoker on p101!
On p117 "Making sure you’re stories match?" should be "Making sure your stories match?"
On p221 "Aurora Australias" should be "Aurora Australis"
here's on oddity: "Callum left the Physice Building…"?! Physics building? I am not sure if this is an error or not. Physice isn't a word (at least as far as and wikipedia are concerned!) but I've found that very word doing Google searches, so who knows? I know I never heard it before, and if it is an error, it's not the kind of error that an effectively employed spell-checker would miss.

I had really mixed feelings about rating this novel and decided, on balance, in the end, after some thought, to rate it just barely a worthy read. Call it the madness of the season, call me 'growing soft in my old age', or whatever, but it only just squeaked by. Hopefully the author will be encouraged to continue to write - and to write much better novels after this one.

Things to love. The title! I also loved that the cover proclaimed 'in Glorious digital 2D', but I did find it a little odd that the sun was shown apparently rising above the North Pole. Maybe it wasn't the sun. Or maybe this novel is much more of a disaster story than I’d thought! Normally I don't get into covers because the author has little to do with them, but self-published novels are different.

Other things. This novel is written rather simplistically, like it’s a first novel. The simplicity is endearing in some ways, and really annoying in others. I just chewed out another novel for its exhausting breathlessness, but in this novel, given the way it’s written, a bit of breathlessness seems to work. I guess that's the difference between YA and mature, huh? McFadden certainly keeps the story moving without it bogging down in reams of exposition, and there's enough technical detail to give it verisimilitude, but nowhere near enough that McFadden traps himself in statements which are provably false. I admire that! On the other hand, the novel is largely conversation, very much like a first time author might write. There's very little description of, well, anything!. If you like to make up your own story, then I guess this will suit you. Me? I like the author to do some of the work at least - otherwise we may as well be writing out own tale! As it is, this novel could have been set pretty much anywhere in the civilized world and the same story could have been told, so why then set it in Sydney, Australia? I don't know! we really got none of "Sydney": no atmosphere, no flavor, no taste. I regretted that.

On the other hand, it is refreshingly set in Australia as opposed to the tediously omnipresent USA, so credit has to be given to any author who both realizes and publicizes that there are interesting and cool places elsewhere in the world and "The World" ≠ "The USA"! In addition: the premise for the novel is interesting, if not exactly original. Aliens are living in secret amongst us, deflecting humanity from finding means by which to short-circuit the massive and prohibitive distances between stars - so that we can't spread out and cause problems with our alien neighbors, you know. Unfortunately, one guy has managed to sneak by the aliens' attention, and is on the verge of doing precisely what it is which they're trying to stop.

Because these aliens live on a planet orbiting a red dwarf star, they're rather averse to bright light and are oxygen-starved, so they like their food bloody in order to benefit from the hemoglobin. Unfortunately, this makes no sense since there's no mechanism which takes O₂ from food and puts it into the blood stream. If there were, we wouldn't need to breathe! OTOH, maybe the alien physiology is different. Like Alice, they use mirrors to move between locations, although they're issued newly developed 'travel sticks' at the start of this novel, meaning that mirrors are no longer requisite for travel. So McFadden has pretty much all of the elements in place to depict these long-lived aliens as the source of vampire myths on Earth. This was a good plot idea, but McFadden really didn't go anywhere with it.

One young woman, Sabrina, is onto the two local aliens, honestly believing them to actually be vampires. Far from being afraid of them, she's actively trying to track them down and contact them, but they're aware of her and are avoiding her like the plague, considering her to be a nut-job.

There are two issues here which typically remain either unexplored by writers, or which are simply glossed over. One is the question of the feasibility of an alien physiology being able to derive nourishment from alien (i.e Earth) food sources. Here again, a decent working knowledge of evolution would serve writers well, since they way we, as organisms, exploit our environment for energy is tightly tied-up with our evolutionary origins, and organisms which evolved in an entirely alien eco-system are unlikely to have much success in reaping their energy (or more accurately, the raw materials which produce energy) from a system in which they never evolved. But it’s possible, I suppose! I’d rather see writers tackle this head-on, though and have the aliens adjusted artificially to be able to use Earth food sources. They certainly have the technology to do this in this novel, it would appear!

The other issue is their apparent physical attraction to humans. Our closest living relatives are chimpanzees, and call me naïve, but I don’t know of anyone who is attracted to chimpanzees (in the way I mean), so why would actual aliens find humans attractive? If the aliens resemble us closely, then there does exist this possibility, I admit, but it's such a cliché, and I don’t buy that all aliens will automatically be 'chasing human skirt', which is what's implied here. This isn't helped by the amazingly politically incorrect behaviors on both the aliens' and the humans' parts. Yes, people do behave politically incorrectly, and there's no reason for writers not to portray such people, but I don't see that it contributed a thing here. It did serve as an annoying and juvenile distraction from the story. Indeed, the more I read of this novel - that is, read the alien conversation - the more absurd it sounded to me. I know they've been living amongst humans for 400 years (more on this in a minute!), but something just seems off about their interaction with each other and the language they use.

And Manly beach! I know this is a real place (I looked it up), which I had thought was named after someone (as in Gerard Manly Hopkins, for example), but it turns out it was actually named for the "manly" natives who were initially found there! I couldn’t help thinking of that meaning for this, every time I read it. Like this beach isn't for skinny weaklings who get sand kicked into their faces; no, this is a manly beach! I think I would have been tempted to invent a beach name in place of this one, had I written it!

There are three women in the novel (Jackie, Mandy, & Sabrina) and none of them are distinguishable from one another. Jackie is Sam's boyfriend, and Sam is the guy who has invented the wormhole travel which has so upset the aliens. The other two are really non-entities and fade from the story rather speedily, which was fine, because all three seemed to me to be the same person when you got right down to it. The absolute acceptance of Sabrina's vampire theory by her friend Mandy, and worse, by Jackie, was absurd. This was especially so in Jackie's case, where she swallowed the eventual alien story without a hiccup, but rejected out of hand her boyfriend the physicist's claim to have created a wormhole? Where's the rationale in that?! There is absolutely no skepticism from anyone, and this flew in the face of the skeptical persona which was initially established for Jackie (although she quickly abandoned that).

There is also a huge disconnect between the aliens' stated reason for monitoring and seeking to contain Earth: that humans are a violent race who have a history of muscling in wherever they visit and turfing out the natives, with their final solution: wipe out all humans! Hypocrite much, aliens?! The aliens were a bit sad, actually.

But let's talk about Jackie behind her back! Jackie is a fitness guru who's getting ready to dump Sam and hook up with the alien (at least, let me say, that's was very loudly telegraphed). I saw no real impetus for her attitude or behavior with regard to Sam (or the alien for that matter). Yes, there are hints, but nothing that would precipitate her radical switch of loyalties, unless she's as bad as other elements of the story have led me to believe of her. For example, in pursuit of aliens, she abruptly cancels her fitness class by means of leaving a scrappy, abrupt, and apparently hand-written note on the gym door! What - there's no texting or email in Jackie World™?

That struck me as being dumb, callous, and worse, if it was intentionally (as opposed to thoughtlessly) written this way, it tells me that Jackie is a every bit as much of a jerk as is Sam, and she's a hypocrite to boot, to be wailing about Sam's callous treatment of her when she treats paying customers even worse than Sam treats her. Am I supposed to think this of her? She's certainly not a likable character; she's way too shallow and self-centered to appeal to me. But it gets worse! Jackie not only abandoned her entire day's classes at the drop of a hat, she suddenly felt it crucial on the next day that she get changed and get to her next class on time when Callum wants to talk to her?! Again with the illogical. Is Jackie schizophrenic? Whatever she is, she's certainly not someone I would want to know, so the alien is most welcome to her! I guess the aliens are either less picky or more desperate than I am! Callum wants to talk to her about the guy she just dumped - like she can somehow explain to the guy who talks down to her that there are dangers inherent in the sub-atomic physics he's getting into. Honestly? After 400 years, Callum still evidently knows nothing about humans!

I don’t find this unqualified acceptance that 'there are vampires' (which then switches to 'there are aliens' without a hiccup) to be realistic, but I decided to go with that for the sake of enjoying the story. But the aliens' view of Earth is somewhat bizarre. We learn that the aliens, despite supposedly wanting to stymie humans' development of advanced technologies, have actually given a kick-start to some advances, which strikes me as being counter-productive, from their PoV. OTOH, if they were that advanced, and they wanted to help, then why not help where it matters: by offering alternative means of energy to move humans away from fossil fuels and destructive technologies? Why not teach by generous example instead of by threat?

For that matter, why live in secret (and for four hundred years?!) amongst us? Four hundred years ago there was no way in hell we were any threat to anyone off-planet, so why move in then? It makes no sense whatsoever. Better yet, why not simply come out into the open and share their concerns about where we’re going technology-wise if they’re supposedly so advanced and conscientious? Callum (alien #1) is thoroughly incompetent. Not only has he failed to sabotage Sam's efforts to transmit matter instantaneously from point A to point B, he has very effectively aided him by showing him how to do it with far less energy. That part of this story I honestly couldn’t swallow, and much less could I swallow that Callum is invited to aid Sam in his efforts at a demonstration for university faculty (and military) and Callum doesn’t do a single thing to ruin the demo and discredit Sam! He thinks of this only later, and instead, he expends every thought he has in self-recrimination and whining about how advanced Sam is in his use of this technology!

The story was, as I said, not original, but it was inventive, and it was a rather confused. Normally I wouldn't be happy with a story like this, and I wasn't exactly happy with this one, but I was able to finish it (although I admit I skimmed a bit towards the end) and in doing so, I saw enough in here, speaking in general, overall terms, to give me pause for thought as I was reading it, and I am hoping that McFadden will continue writing, and keep all his best bits in whilst ruthlessly tossing out all of his worst bits. So I hopefully, and optimistically, rate this a worthy read.