Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review: Containment

containmentThis review is for Containment, a SF novel by Christian Cantrell. This is one of a number of $0.99 (as of 04/30/2011) novels by this author, and they are all self-published by the Cantrell Media Company. Personally, I'm fine with self-publishing of novels like this. I mean I'm all for authors receiving 70% of the cut of a sale that Amazon provides on sales of Kindle books. Especially when one considers some of the… well I can't think of a good enough word to imply bad karma… things that publishers do to authors concerning digital books (basics are that they list them as 'licenses' when they sell to the end user, so that the end user loses the rights of ownership, and lists them as sales to the authors, because by contract an author gets a higher percentage of licenses than sales).

The product description for this book reads as thus:

As Earth's ability to support human life begins to diminish at an alarming rate, the Global Space Agency is formed with a single mandate: protect humanity from extinction by colonizing the solar system as quickly as possible. Venus, being almost the same mass as Earth, is chosen over Mars as humanity’s first permanent steppingstone into the universe.

Arik Ockley is part of the first generation to be born and raised off-Earth. After a puzzling accident, Arik wakes up to find that his wife is almost three months pregnant. Since the colony’s environmental systems cannot safely support any increases in population, Arik immediately resumes his work on AP, or artificial photosynthesis, in order to save the life of his unborn child. Arik’s new and frantic research uncovers startling truths about the planet, and about the distorted reality the founders of the colony have constructed for Arik’s entire generation. Everything Arik has ever known is called into question, and he must figure out the right path for himself, his wife, and his unborn daughter.

As for characters, we only get a single POV character in this book, and that's of Arik Ockley. Who, though well defined, and with a distinct voice, has a subtle character flaw in that he's a super-genius. Now, I know that the how's and why's of such things are touched upon in the novel, but it would've been a bit better if there had been some flaw to his character above and beyond just not being that athletic. But, even with that, Arik's character is believable, and has 'voice' remains the same throughout the novel—which is something that not everyone accomplishes.

The plot is a standard conspiracy-theory motif, just set on a Venusian colony rather than the corridors of power in Washington or the Vatican. It has the potential for fun, without adding anything new to the concept.

In truth, there are two things that really bothered me about this novel. The first, is that the author seems to be in love with his research, and wants us all to know all the finite details involved in it. He has certain things that he wants to say in this book, and rather than have the concepts explored by the setting, he has the protagonist tell you how wonderful those things are. One gets pages upon pages of what is in effect, whitepapers about future technology that exists solely as filler. Frankly, I could have skipped roughly 75-100 pages of this type of content and not have lost anything plot wise

The second (and personally more aggravating) issue I had with this novel is the way that it jumped back and forth in time without warning.  I would be reading, and it just changed the time-setting. This made it a very disjointed read, and would often force me to go back a few pages trying to find the cue that I  missed where time shifted. This is a grave error since the whole point of my reading the book is to not be shifted out of the story.

IMO, it would have helped immensely if the author had bothered just including LINES in the text indicating that a section had changed.

Ultimately, a standardized Gary Stu main character, uninspired plot, and two major issues in the fundamental structure of the book hinders what is otherwise a decent read. I'll probably not bother reading it again, which in an of itself says a lot, but I'm not exactly sad that I only spent $0.99 on it.

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