Friday, January 27, 2012

Review of J. A. Konrath's novel, "Origin"

One author who has become famous for being self-published, and yet best-selling (thus, giving hope to humble(?) authors like me), is J.A.Konrath. I found one of his books available as a freebee the other day, read it, and then reviewed it. Here is my review:

a technothriller cum horror, January 25, 2012

By robby charters

This review is from: Origin (Kindle Edition)

I found it a good read. The prologue was intriguing -- a bit of history that brought to mind the beginning of the film "My Science Project", also involving a president. This wasn't a copy of that, though. The first chapter -- the one where you're wrenched into the present -- was well done, with the presidents men knocking at the door at 3 a.m. Then, the setting opens up to us bit by bit through the eyes of Andy the linguist, before moving on to other narrative points of view.

He and eight others are the only ones, outside of the President, and possibly a few others who were sworn to secrecy (like ex-presidents, presumably), who know about the creature, allegedly the devil himself. At least he looks like the classical depiction of the devil. Through Andy's expertise, they get the creature talking. He's ancient. He knows Latin, Hebrew and Mayan, but he quickly learns English. His actual history is illusive, as we never know whether to believe the creature or not.

The other characters are a mixture. Sun, the vet, has recently been called in to check the creature's health. There's a priest and a rabbi. As one who has had exposure to both religions, I can say they're believably portrayed. Joe Konrath has also done enough reading up on things like ancient languages and DNA to at least sound believable. The narrative is spiced up by the banter between the rabbi and priest, chemistry between Andy and Sun, the secret desires of the doctor, and the hidden histories of each one (enabling the President to blackmail them into staying put), in an underground world equipped with everything only the army would think sufficient for the good life. He takes us from what seems like a science fiction techno-thriller, to what could pass as a horror story.

The story kept me glued til the "uh-oh" ending.

Robby Charters

author of Pepe

Author, in a shameless act of self promotion, review his own book

Here's a review I did of my own book, Pepe, which I just had to take down from its Amazon page because an author isn't supposed to review his/her own book:

Author, in a shameless act of self promotion, review his own book,

June 10, 2011


robby charters

This review is from: Pepe (Kindle Edition)

Okay, I'm the author. I understand it's probably not fair for the author to review his own book, but the Amazon environment appears to be letting me do so -- so I'll just ramble on a bit...

So, as the author, am I really an authority on whether YOU'll like it? I'll only say this. I have about about eight novels, novellas, shorts -- whatever -- available on Amazon, and in my opinion, PEPE is my best one. It's certainly better than THE WRONG TIME, which appears to be getting the most downloads right now.

It's a cyberpunk novel -- perhaps a bit of crossover to fantasy -- set in 2020. Pepe is a homeless street boy who doesn't know his true identity. In the course of the story, he lives in places you'd typically find them: before the fire, in a vast slum community named the Dockyards (which is one of the central locations); later, an abandoned multi-story construction site with other homeless kids; and then, a shelter for homeless children, Mercy House, which I've based on Mercy Centre, Bangkok, where I worked for a year. Everywhere he lives, he has his sister, Po, with him. She's two years younger, she's not his biological sister, but he knows he's gotta take care of her. I've described the life of street kids as closely as I can without making the story dreary and dismal. There's every type: Pepe's and Po's "grandma" died when their home was burnt in a slum fire; there's Jose, the drug addict, who ran away from an abusive dad; and Raquel and her six-year-old twin brothers, Pierre and Michele (don't worry -- no tiresome comedies-of-errors). Their mother abandoned them after their dad went to prison. They are French/African. Raquel is a colourful character. I loved doing her.

The story is set in the fictional Southern European nation of Cardovia, with a history that goes back thousands of years. Cardo, the founder and first king of the dynasty, once paid a visit to King Solomon and received a special gift from him. This, and the character of Atsuko, the aged Japanese mystic, give the story its fantasy edge.

...And it's Cyberpunk: The blurb above said that the General's brain had been wired to a network of computers and robots. You'll see that that can definitely have its disadvantages. Unbeknownst to his dad, Raul is a hacker. His dad is an army colonel, one of the General's top commanders. Their family is typical upper-crust -- the opposite end of the spectrum from Pepe and Po. Things get precarious when Raul hacks into the Generals computer system and realises what kind of person he really is.

Rich kid meets poor kid: We see the typical attitude of rich kids towards "low-lifers", but things happen. A relationship slowly develops until Raul, Pepe and Po are the closest of friends. He enters their world as one of them. At the same time, in front of his computer terminal and VR set, sometimes accompanied by Pepe, he makes discovery after amazing discovery. Puzzle pieces begin to fit together, until suddenly he realises the danger Pepe is in. In fact, it might be too late...I'll stop here. I'm giving too much away.

There are no superheroes. Everyone's thoroughly human. Perhaps the closest thing to a superhero is Atsuko, but even he has his limitations. But, everyone does what it takes to give the story an ending that should be thoroughly satisfying.

I think you'll like it.

Well -- (as Mr. Bean says about his videos) -- I like it anyway...

Robby Charters, author of The Zondon