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.

Book Review: Salvation – Book 1 of the Salvation Sequence

Salvation is the first book in the Salvation Sequence, a brand new trilogy from Peter F. Hamilton. Instead of the physical copy, I got the Kindle version because of my recent transition into e-books.

My first exposure to Peter Hamilton’s work was Judas Unchained, which I got the chance to read several years back. Since then, I have read The Void Trilogy, Chronicle of Fallers, The Night’s Dawn trilogy, Manhattan In Reverse and Great North Road. But I digress.

This book consists of two story threads. The first story thread was set in the 23rd century where humans have pretty much colonised multiple worlds, asteroids, and moon with their portal technology that made spaceships redundant. The second thread was set in the 51st century, focusing on a group of children who were trained to be warriors in an upcoming war with an alien race. The story threads finally linked up and we got the chance to see who was the real enemy humans faced throughout the book.

With this book, you will get the same prosaic writing style expected from Hamilton, a style that I love. For some people, they may find it rather boring. There isn’t much bombastic words to tell a story, world building or character development, which in my view, made the reading a little easier. But that’s not to say that there were some words that I actually had to pull out the dictionary to understand what it meant.

And unlike the earlier books by Hamilton where I could get lost with the sheer amount of characters and subplots to follow, Salvation actually has fewer characters and subplots. It makes following them easier especially with the way the stories are laid out on the pages. The transition between different viewpoint is also well done in my view. In fact, the switching of perspectives was done on chapter basis with individual title summarising what you will read next, which makes it easier for me to recap what I’ve read before. It’s especially so for the 23rd century story thread. The 51st century on the other hand, because the stories are placed far apart from each other in terms of pages, you may have to go back to re-read again if your memory is poor. Good thing about e-books is, you can jump around rather easily.

Now I honestly couldn’t remember the structure of his more recent books. So if this well-structured manner of presenting is also present in Chronicle of Fallers books, then I apologise for not being able to make a better comparison. It’s been a year plus since I read A Night Without Stars.

I also noticed that with this book, the amount of sex scene is minimal and are mostly set in the 51st century because those characters are younger. I remember vividly the amount of sex found in The Night’s Dawn trilogy. In Salvation, the relationships can be said to be believable with the usual ups and downs but it’s obvious they aren’t exactly intimate with each other, especially for the 23rd century story thread. I suspect it’s because the characters are much older and seen a lot of shit in their respective lives that made sex not a priority. This contrast is definitely welcomed.

With Salvation, you will also get the noir-detective story telling manner that I have come to enjoy with Hamilton’s books. In Salvation, the characters were investigating various things that was going on until the subplots merge and give you the conclusion. It reminded me of the Commonwealth Saga where Paula Mayo tried to investigate multiple crimes that culminated in her acknowledging the existence of Starflyer and participated in the war against the alien as well as arresting criminals for what they did. I’m also reminded of the book Great North Road where the police had to investigate the murder of a clone of a wealthy North family that also concluded an alien was involved.

I will give this book 5 out of 5 stars because I really enjoy it and it didn’t disappoint me at all.

Now, I just can’t wait for the next book, Salvation Lost, to be released next year.