The Smart App
on April 19, 2012
Intriguing near-future SciFi thriller based upon an interesting "what if" idea, which a plot built upon both expected and unexpected consequences.
Marred, however, by a certain amount of awkward writing. There are some awkward POV and scene shifts; and just enough speaker attributions left out of dialog so that readers may not always be certain which character is speaking. Some character motivations may may not be all that convincing.
Nonetheless, an intriguing read.
Though it's not unusual to see $.99 first novels on Smashwords, ones as well-written as this are rare finds. This is a complex novel, with a rich, smoothly-flowing narrative, focusing down nicely to intimate 1st person POV where needed, with key flashback scenes at just the right points. The real story is primarily about Tristan, but a variety of other characters, each with their own interesting story arcs within the larger story are well developed, and -- although it may not seem so when you first encounter them -- weave closely into Tristan's story.
Although I did have some problems with the book. The rich narrative is, well, too rich. There is overabundance of words (124,000+), and too many characters developed all too well. Certainly with an overabundance of foreshadowing. Pacing which otherwise could be just right seems slowed down by all those words, and arguably too much description.
Granted, the pace does pick up at the climax, but that almost makes it seem -- in comparison with the rest of the book -- almost a bit too rushed. At the same time, the complexity of viewpoints involved at that point were made me impatient. Perhaps that's why the climax, for me, flirted uncomfortably close to being a "deus ex machine".
An intriguing "what if": an on-line game which is really training for... (yes, yes, it's sort of been done before, but this book is a at least a fairly original take).
We follow five friends who -- since college -- have gone on to very different careers with varying degrees of success, as they "finish" the game and what happens afterwards (which is the bulk of the story).
The problem with this book is simply that there's too much bulk (nearly 159,000 words worth). There's more background on the characters than we need to know, more interludes of banter than we want to hear, and more plot elements than we would want to care about.
There's good guys and bad guys (and some we can't be sure of, though they end up proving themselves one way or another eventually). A couple of romantic sub-plots, multi-solar system conflict and intrigue. Lots of fast-paced action. Everything you could expect to see in the military science fiction sub-genre and more. Too much more. And some scenes are too similar; almost to the point of repetition... with too many plot developments becoming too predictable.
Likely it would be a much better read if intelligently edited down to about half its size. Leaving some of the sub-plots out, and at least some of the interludes. Let the main scenes come at the reader at a faster pace and become less predictable. In some places, I would have been interesting to see a change of pace; say, omitting the initial scene-setting stuff at beginning of some of the chapters (simply jumping into the action in medias res).
The book does have a well-done cover, which is evocative of the story (which prompted me to read the preview, which lead to buying the ebook). Good copyediting (much better than most Smashwords editions, I'd say), along with clean typography and layout.