Book Review: Slipstream – Book #1 of A Crisis of Two Worlds

Slipstream was a debut science-fiction novel written by Michael Offutt published in 2012. It was the first book of the A Crisis of Two World series. I came upon this book on Goodreads because I was searching for a good LGBT-themed science fiction to read and it was one of the good ones. I didn’t manage to buy it because it’s not available in store here. It was only after I got the Kindle app on my phone before I bought the e-book.

The book is about a teenager who discovered he had the ability to manipulate space-time after a car accident. And that was in addition to his innate ability to fix situation that have gone bad. As the story went on, we will see his talents with the sciences and mathematics and how he used those knowledge to help him navigate the world.

For a start, I like the writing style of the author. It’s concise, easy to read and does a good job of showing what’s going on. And there aren’t any words used that forced me to stop and use the dictionary, which will pull me out of the fiction world. That’s something I hate.

The second thing I enjoyed was the story. The story started out showing a teenager, Jordan, navigating through high school, struggle with drug use, having to deal with dreams and the drama from sharing those dreams with his sister. This help establish the brother-sister relationship that was way more interesting than the one I have in real life.

Then a car accident happened and it sets off a chain of events that put Jordan, who discovered he had the ability to manipulate space-time, his sister and a stranger, known as Kolin, in an alternate Earth that an apocalyptic event which wiped out most life due to a nuclear test gone wrong. By now, I’m truly hooked because I’m interested in how societies turn out on an alternate Earth that suffered some kind of world-changing event. And I love stories about people having special abilities. The inclusion of cybernetics, fantasy-related ideas like vampires and succubus further made the world the story is set in interesting.

And after arriving on alternate Earth, or should I say parallel Earth, Jordan and his sister were recruited to help bring down Shadow, the half of the AI that gone mad. To achieve that, both of them had to undertake various missions with the people who work with Light, the other half of the same AI. This is where I knew I wasn’t going anywhere else as I love a good AI-related story. The book also reminded me of my favourite movie, i,Robot, where a conflicted AI ultimately resort to taking power away from humans due to the wrong conclusion drawn from the Three Laws of Robotics.

And during one of the missions in the book, the characters encountered a monster. To me, monsters in science fiction are aliens or rogue AIs, not a monster monster you typically find in Japanese monster movies. And I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s just delightful to see how well it fits.

The other thing I like is how the relationship between Jordan and Kolin unfold. Even though this is the first fictional male-male relationship story I’ve read, I can tell the pacing wasn’t too slow or fast. The attraction and ultimately love for each other didn’t come across as fake or pretentious. And the way the two of character struggled with the potential truth and the discomfort arising from being judged that they are queer, and how they actually feel about each other throughout the story made me sympathise with them.

But the book isn’t without its own flaws.

Other than Kolin and Jordan, the remaining characters seemed boring and doesn’t really resonate with me. For characters like Kathy, Jordan’s sister, she looked interesting at first but after a while, she started to look like she was an extra and came across as an enigma because there wasn’t much shown about her personality or thinking. There were also attempts to show certain amount of closeness or intimacy between some of the characters but those actually felt weak and not as memorable.

The end of the book actually felt like it was kind of rushed. The fight scenes ended too fast. The enemies, although made to look like they were invincible and powerful initially, went down very quickly. Finally, the reveal of Jordan and Kathy’s origin just make me feel a little meh.

So I will give the book a 3.5/5. As for whether I will read the next book in the series, I can’t decide yet because I got myself the Greg Mandel series by Peter F. Hamilton on Kindle and would prefer to finish that first.

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