As I have mentioned here before, I belong to a thread on Goodreads of Speculative Christian Fiction authors who trade books and end up reviewing and critiquing each other’s books every few months. I have two lined up in the next two months, and this is the first one.
It’s hard to describe this book without giving away too much of the plot. The author describes it himself as “Frank Peretti (of This Present Darkness fame) meets C.S. Lewis.” And I caught myself flashing back to many of the images that impressed me about C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy, especially Perelandra. In this book, Cliffson, takes us on a journey that involves cutting-edge genetics, nanotechnology and medical science, interdimensional travel, artificial intelligence, Mensa and the step above, referred to as the triple 9s. In case you don’t know, that’s the group who’s IQ scores higher than 99.9 percent of the general population. And it all ends with a sinister, demonic plot that threatens the entire world.
And Cliffson does a good job of pulling all of it off. In fact, I was surprised when I finished the book to learn that he was a retired pastor, and not a physicist or a genetics engineer, as I had suspected. The world building is immense and overwhelming a lot of the time, but Cliffson somehow has the credibility so that you believe what he is telling you.
That’s the good news. Here’s what needs fixing:
First, I suspect this is a first novel, and it shows by the author’s over-reliance on exposition. I find myself often sitting back and talking about what is happening as if we are discussing it as armchair detectives, rather than living it vicariously through the characters. Remember: show, don’t tell.
Second, the dialogue struggles. Even though the main family consists of Mensa members, the vocabulary is stiff and full of 25-cent words that make my eyes want to glaze over. In addition, rather than there being a discussion where someone says a sentence or a phrase and then gets a reply, far too often the dialogue consists of speeches that go on for several paragraphs. The book’s dialogue is there to help us understand what is happening, but in the process, it slows the action down.
Finally, this book really needs an editor. I found grammar, spelling and punctuation issues throughout it. In addition, the author needs to find a good formatter who can help him set up his ebook properly.
The book has a lot of promise, but it needs some work. I understand that it is the first book in a proposed series, so I highly recommend the author latch onto a good editor before he gets too far down the road.
I give it four stars out of five.