Overview: I acquired this book, along with a few others, without reading its description. I wanted the content to be a complete surprise. I didn’t realize this was a religious-themed book until I read the reviews at the start. That’s not a put-off, by the way. I was planning on reading this book to the end regardless as a way to see how this author crafted her story.
First Sentence: Zinovy Efimovich Kozlov ducked his head as an icy wind, howling off the canal, whipped the scarf from his face and poured its bitter mid-winter chill down his neck. Maybe the guy’s name is too long, but it’s a good sentence. I like it. 4 stars
Plot: A stubborn scientist comes to terms with God in a post-apocalyptic world.
The Bad: The first 40 pages of this book were horrendous, as in the worst eighties A-Team or Space 1999 episode you can imagine. You start off with an assassin who works a 9 to 5 desk job in an assassin’s bureau. That would be Zinovy in St. Petersburg. Every so often, Zinovy gets a message in his inbox or something, informing him he has to go out and kill someone, and when he’s done he comes back to his desk to, apparently, do paperwork. One of Zinovy’s rivals is promoted to supervisor, and he immediately orders Zinovy to go kill his pregnant ex-girlfriend, who used to work in that same office with both of those men. Zinovy can’t do the job, and he cares so much about his ex and his unborn child that he escorts them to a train station and abandons them. Naturally, they are soon murdered.
Zinovy needs to flee St. Petersburg. He makes one phone call, and later meets with the one guy from the phone call, and suddenly Zinovy ends up on the International Space Station as an astronaut. Because, you know, assassins with cushy desk jobs are reasonable candidates for the Russian space program, where their skills are surely in high demand. Once Zinovy is on the ISS, the Russians want him, and only him, to go on a space walk and fix a specific camera. Those Russians are so good at predicting defectors that they somehow planted a bomb there. The bomb isn’t a time bomb, so there is no real need to mess with it, but Zinovy does this anyway. The bomb blows up, but nobody is really hurt and there isn’t a whole lot of damage. Zinovy decides that after all that, after leaving the entire planet, he wants to return to St. Petersburg to confront his boss and get revenge for his murdered baby mama and unborn baby. Right. Wait, I thought this was like a sci-fi novel?
Does this book get any better? You know, that’s debatable. There are some good moments, especially early on when Zinovy and crew return to Earth and see all the bizarre changes that have taken place. Exploring the Christianized Earth could have had a lot of potential if the author had stuck to that with the intent of producing an entertaining speculative novel.
Instead, what we get is people walking, and walking, and making minor discoveries, and walking some more. The author stretches this journey out way too long, but why? So that she can pepper the story with Christian dogma. This is especially irritating in Part 2 of this book, where Zinovy and Co. discuss topics such as: abortion, rape, murder, blood sacrifices, original sin, Passover, etc. We get very vague references to this mysterious new king and his kingdom, but nothing clear even from characters that have already been there, because the author felt the necessity to cloud the identity of God for whatever reason. Also, we get characters that were supposed to come in and advance the plot, but all they do is show up, annoyingly say very little and then disappear. They say, go this way but I’m not telling you why, or eat this but I’m not telling you why, or do this but I’m not telling you why. Also, several times these characters deliberately withhold information that could have saved the astronaut travelers a huge amount of time and headache. All of this was done so the reader could say, oh, God is really a nice person, if you get past the coercion, omissions, and deliberate obfuscation by his representatives. If your traveling companion gets killed by vandals, don’t do anything because God will take care of it. If you see a girl about to be raped, don’t do anything because God will take care of it.
I actually had to stop reading this book for 2 days, after around 300 pages. The journey was too long after such a crappy start. I could have skipped all of Part 2, basically, since very little happened during that time, and gone directly from Part 1 to 3. After the break I thought, maybe this author can salvage some of this by giving me a good ending, and lift this book up to a 3 star rating.
Nope, Jaques didn’t do it. We’ve got a small army of allegedly savage Bedouin warriors that wimp out repeatedly. Their ‘vicious’ leader doesn’t do anything when he is inadvertently insulted. The entire gang is a hundred strong, armed with scimitars and riding horses, but they can’t raid a camp of a dozen unarmed civilians and steal away one child. But you know that they can do? They can kill a lion, a lioness and three cubs and cut their hearts out, no problem.
And what’s this deal near the end, where two supposedly male characters suddenly become females? What did I miss? Oh, it wasn’t really explained, so... Moving on.
The Good: If you are a Christian, and you can ignore the inconsistencies to focus more on the goal of spreading dogma, you might enjoy reading this book. That’s all this book really is; an attempt to convert the masses disguised as science fiction. The author keeps the preaching subtle, which is good, but she also keeps it frequent, which slows down the story considerably, so patience will be good for the reader. Stubborn, analytical Zinovy eventually succumbs to peer pressure, the bad guys are sometimes vanquished, but sometimes they’re just moved to the far side of the world and left alive with no punishment, and in general lots of happy endings are found in the conclusion.
Spelling and formatting for this book were excellent. The story concept and outline are fine. The characters were a little bland, but then again, many sci-fi writers tend to create the same sort of 2D people. The author did show good experience and wisdom on a number of occasions, and I feel has good potential to improve her writing skills in the future.
(review of free book)