Malcolm Cowen


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Smashwords book reviews by Malcolm Cowen

  • The Crystal Portal on April 17, 2011
    (no rating)
    "The Crystal Portal" is the first novel in what is obviously intended to be a series. At least it better had be a series or I shall be visiting the Authors Travis Perry and Mike Lynch with a very large hammer to discuss when the next book is due out. The scope is big. Perry and Lynch are building alternative worlds, in what looks very much like other universes, with well thought out alternative ecologies, economies, and belief systems. And there's a strong hint of something more going on in the backstory which we haven't yet seen. The character range is satisfyingly wide. After a short prologue the first main scene links a pointy-eared character described as an elf with the son of a carpenter from Nazareth (no not that one, the *other* carpenter) and a mildly neurotic robot from a future California, all in a quest pursuing a defeated but still dangerous enemy, with a fourth protagonist joining in later. The style is satisfying as well. The characters speak and react within their cultural background, meeting events way outside their own experience without being excessively thick or unreasonably adaptive to an alien world. The worldbuilding has obviously been taken seriously, and a few incongruities are pointed out by the characters themselves, which suggests a lot more backstory than has been revealed so far. Most important, the story is believable. These people may be non-human (with one exception), but I can empathise with them, and care about them. Even the Villain acts and speaks like a real tyrant gone bad, not like some pantomime Bond villain. I started reading it as a book I'd promised to review. I ended up reading it for pleasure, and feeling satisfied at the end. Niggles, a few minor ones, but I can't say they interfered with my enjoyment of a good yarn told. The character described as an elf may have pointed ears, superhuman strength and an extended lifespan, but so do Vulcans, and Perry's elf has more in common with Mr Spock then with Legolas. I'm also not too sure what sort of romantic involvement the "elf" can have with a princess with a crystalline exoskeleton, and there are a couple of odd typos on my Kindle where each author's name is split by their image. But frankly you'd have to be pretty sad sort of person not to find pleasure in this tale. I'd say buy it and enjoy it.