Superhighway by Alex Fayman

Superhighway is the story of orphan Alex who discovered his strange ability to travel through the Internet. He can Google the location, grasp a fiber optic internet cable and the next thing he knows, he’s there. He uses this strange power to act as a modern day Robin Hood, stealing from rich mobsters to gift to those in need. Along the way, Alex, the nerdy, orphan boy learns more about himself and his past. I give this book 2 out of 5 stars. It wasn’t an outstanding book, and was difficult to get through at times, but the storyline itself is original, and it had its fun moments.

The opening chapter was really off-putting. It was in medias res, which is usually a compelling way to start a story, but there simply wasn’t enough information about the character or his history or where he’s headed for it to have made sense. Additionally, the writing style is a little heard to get through, especially at first. It’s not technically wrong, but it’s clunky and clear the author is much more comfortable in an expository mode. When there are action moments, they’re rushed and incomplete.

His confidence in his abilities throughout the entire story is strange. Usually when someone is newly introduced to a power, they’re confused. And his lack of confusion doesn’t make Alex seem macho, just weird. Additionally, his characterization is inconsistent. In the arm parts of the novel, Alex is described as anti-social, nerdy and a book-worm. When he travels, suddenly he’s turned into a hunky habitual runner? I don’t believe it. Finally, every time he speaks about women disgusts me. His objectification is gross and his unearned confidence in himself is off-putting.

A sense of familiarity is not a bad thing. Alex didn’t need to leave the orphanage, and he didn’t need to do it when he chose to or the way that he chose to. Giving him a familiar home-base is good for humanizing him and helping the reader feel comfortable. I get it, the orphanage sucks. But the lady there is the only family Alex has ever had. That’s the only home Alex has ever known. Even when he lived there, he wasn’t disdainful, so it makes no sense that he became so bitter and left when he did. Not only is this problematic for Alex, who I already don’t like. But it’s problematic for the reader, too. Missing home is relatable, which is something Alex sorely needs in order to be a more fleshed out character. If you ever read a well known sci-fi novel, they learn massive truths about themselves and the world, but they almost always have a home to miss and go back to.

The author tried to be subtle with the foreshadowing, but it was thinly veiled and often pulled the reader out of the story. The author’s ability to build-up to any climactic moments could also be improved. There were also a lot of random side adventures that didn’t really add to the story, and it’s hard to build up to those small side-plots. It was clear they were meant for exposition, and they really were boring and made any build up to the actual climax less effective. Finally, the dialogue was poor. There was nothing wrong with it technically, but it was clunky and uncomfortable to read. The author should consider using contractions or fewer words in the future.

This review was originally written for Online Book Club and can be viewed here.

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Solaris Seethes by Janet McNulty

Rynah’s world has been destroyed. Literally. And by her boyfriend. He stole the crystal that stabilized magnetic field on their planet, unleashing volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, storms and general apocalyptic chaos. In Solaris Seethes, Rynah is on a mission to beat her boyfriend to the other 5 crystals that exist on different worlds and prevent him from creating a dangerous weapon from the powerful objects. To do so, she’ll need the help of four Earthens, who she picks up with the help of her sentient ship, Solaris. I gave this book 1 out of 5 stars for issues related to writing style, pacing and character development.

The author is really wordy. And wordiness isn’t always a bad thing, but the word choice is often really strange. Using words like ‘heliotrope’ doesn’t help anyone understand what’s going on, it just makes them stop reading to check their dictionary. Additionally, so many of the sentences are run on, including unnecessary information that pulled the audience out of the story. This contributed significantly to the existing pacing problem.

Pacing was a real struggle. My reaction right from the beginning: what is going on? We open, and there’s no set-up and no given information. The audience is thrown face first into a firefight. This trend is pretty consistent throughout the story too. It’s normal for an ensemble cast to get in a lot of little messes like this crew does, but there is rarely any form of rising action to it. They go someplace. Suddenly there is trouble. The trouble is resolved just as suddenly. They move on. And in the interest of long-term pacing (like you’re looking for in a series), fewer climax points are more effective when it comes to audience impact.

When you’re writing sci-fi, there’s going to be a lot of exposition. You want to build a world, and you want that world-building to not pull the audience out of the story. For that reason, it’s often useful to have the main character act as the audience. The main character should be dropped into the middle of a new world (like the audience is) and needs the world explained to them by another leading character. The author doesn’t do that here; instead the story is primarily told in 3rd person with a focus on Rynah and what she already knows. This makes Rynah come off poorly. She feels like a cold know-it-all instead of a leader we actually want to empathize with.

On the topic of Rynah, she keeps doing this thing where she’s a sh*t, and then she’s scolded by Solaris, and then she doesn’t change anyway, so there was no point to the scolding. It makes her an uninteresting character and her lack of development through the story is really boring. Actually all of the characters lack development. They never learn anything or change as a result of anything. They all feel flat as a result, and nobody can relate to that. I like the story line, even if I don’t like the characters. I liked watching Rynah come to terms with the fact that all of her myths were the same as Earthen myths. That theme was pretty consistent and will likely play a role later. However, I feel like it’s worth pointing out that Hercules is a Roman myth, not a Greek myth. Heracles was the Greek version of the myth.

This review was originally published on Online Book Club and can be viewed here.