Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Paradox Initiative, by Alydia Rackham

This week I'm reviewing a book which came to my attention through one of those pesky e-mails Amazon sends out reminding me about all the books I don't own. Seriously, why don't I own all the books? It's not fair. Anyway, so I took a look at this one and was promised adventure, mystery, time travel, and a bit of romance. And while those are all technically true statements about this book, I don't think that's an accurate reflection at all. Overall I don't have a very good opinion of this book, and I gave it a chance, I really did. It got better towards the end, but I had to slog through so much to get there it just didn't feel worth it.

Our book basically has two characters, the first of which is our point of view character, Kestrel Evans. Kestrel is a twenty-something with a degree in Linguistics trying to break out of her dead-end retail job. This happens rather literally when a mysterious cylinder appears in the stockroom, deposits a strange man, and then promptly explodes. The stranger is Jack Wolfe, a mysterious figure who is hunting for the scientist William Jakiv. When Jakiv kidnaps Kestrel's family Wolfe recruits her (rather forcibly) to help him navigate the twenty-sixth century.

And this is where the novel starts running into problems. The first part is kind of interesting what with the explosions and kidnappings and going to get help from a crime boss that owes Wolfe a favor for some reason, But then Wolfe and Kestrel get on an interstellar cruise ship and the story comes to a screeching halt. Basically they're on this cruise ship for two weeks and a good third of the book is dedicated to days where nothing important happens. It's just Kestrel and Wolfe hanging out, doing normal people stuff like go to a bar or hang out at an arcade. I feel like this was supposed to be a romance plot where Kestrel and Wolfe start bonding and come to like each other, but it just felt like two people I didn't really care about doing very normal and uninteresting things. We even watch Kestrel and Wolfe go to a movie and start watching said movie. So we're literally watching the characters in the book watch a movie. I can watch movies on my own time in real life! I don't want to watch fictional characters do it! Of course, it's on a spaceship, but it's so irrelevant they could have easily made it an ocean-going cruise ship. Eventually the science-fiction comes back, to an extent, but it plays such a very small role that it's hardly a science-fiction book in general.

As I mentioned earlier, I don't really have any reason to care about the characters and part of that is for two-thirds of the book I didn't know anything about Wolfe. I could guess that he suffered PTSD and that he was involved in time travel (because the plot blurb told me that much) but other than that I really didn't know anything. We eventually learn Wolfe's backstory, partly through what amounts to a Google search, at the two-thirds mark in the book, which is just way too late after having to follow him to movie theaters and pubs. Kestrel we know plenty, like she knows languages, is interested in old things, and is a fairly good shot because of her job, but she just feels flat. Other than her barely mentioned desires to work in a museum and get her family back, she just doesn't seem to have much by the way of a personality. She just sort of exists. With both of these characters you spend so long watching them do normal stuff with no reason to care or be interested in what they do that it makes most of the book terribly boring.

To call this book a "sci-fi novel of adventure and mystery" is simply an outright lie. There are science-fiction elements yes, but what the characters do hardly counts as an adventure and for such a long time the only mystery was Wolfe's background, which was so delayed I practically didn't care by the time I got to it. The greatest sin this book commits is being so godawfully, terribly boring, which makes it nothing more than an unentertaining waste of the reader's time. I'd recommend avoiding this book.

- Kalpar

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