Thursday, May 23, 2013

Now Departing Planet Earth, by Josh West

This week I've decided to finally break out the old Kindle again and read an e-book I found for free on Amazon. Now Departing Planet Earth follows the misadventures of Neel and Phillip, two technicians for the global MEH Corporation. Their workday was weird enough when they had to handle a five meter long snake in the ventilation ducts of corporate headquarters, but they soon find themselves investigating a dark conspiracy behind the MEH Corporation. With the help of Eva, an artificial intelligence programmer, and a lot of luck Phillip and Neel may be able to stop the sinister plot before MEH closes down its operations and leaves Earth.

Overall this story was interesting but its weakest aspect by far was its conclusion, which I will explain for a couple of reasons. Because I obviously have to discuss the end of the book there's going to be a major spoiler so you have been warned.


So, the ultimate goal of the MEH Corporation is to fake the explosion of a colony ship headed for Mars so they can then launch their actual colony ship to an earth-like planet further away and create their creepy utopia. While our protagonists work to uncover this plot they agree that MEH can't be allowed to fake the explosion because that will then discourage further space exploration, but at the same time say that we should focus on making Earth a better place rather than trying to start over with a new colony. So in the end the heroes...let the antagonists go through with their plan. They go to great lengths to sabotage the MEH Corporation's plans to force the leaders of MEH to hand over the reins of leadership to them and then...let the bad guys go through with their original plan. It just makes me wonder what on earth was the point of all that conflict if they were going to let MEH go anyway. The only thing it accomplishes is put MEH in the hands of our somewhat reckless heroes at the end, which leads directly to my next problem.

I wouldn't mind terribly if the book actually showed what our protagonists did with the MEH Corporation after the previous leaders have left for wherever the heck they were going in the first place. The problem is that the book ends precisely after the villains' plan comes to fruition and just...stops. I don't know if that was intentional or if West ran out of steam but it's an abrupt end to the story and provides no closure or assurance that our heroes will be any better than the previous leaders. It's pretty heavily implied that our heroes will be better but since it's just told to us I have no way of knowing for sure. There was just so much buildup throughout the book but it ends so abruptly and with a whimper that it was an unsatisfying end.


For the most part the book is...okay. It's not particularly astounding and some of the passages have really clumsy foreshadowing, but it's competent and doesn't have any serious defects. It's not the most exciting book that I've read recently but it was at least an enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours. The main problem is that something like eighty percent of the book is spent building up to the dramatic ticking clock of the third act, but the resolution is so tepid that it doesn't do the rest of the story justice. If the ending was better managed the book would be unremarkable at best, but I have to end up saying you're better off just passing it over because of its incredibly weak ending. Hopefully, next week with L'Morte d'Arthur will go better. 

- Kalpar

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