My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Teardrops in the Night Sky by J.W. Murison
My ever increasing love to hate list just keeps expanding. I hesitate to review this novel for a number of reasons. The least of those being that I easily cower from those authors who take umbrage with my views. That much said when I read this I had bias in mind because I always read the 1 star and 2 star reviews and there are plenty of those to go around. I could easily agree with many of those, which is actually unusual, and when I reached the end of the story I had this bad taste while I wondered what I truthfully found wrong with the whole thing. The first thing that comes to mind is that the main character was a Marty Stu--you know that perfect child protegee genius who in this case overcame some really dramatic stumbling blocks to become once again the brilliant and much loved character whose charisma draws everyone eventually on his side while those who are evil are portrayed as the blackest of evil and will never be on his side...which is always the good side. Of course there are some structural problems in grammar and spelling and missing words and homophones, but I won't cover those because I also checked the authors response to those and since he has no personal interest in fixing them beyond sending you to his publisher and I have no interest in sending a list to his 'publisher'. Also the publisher in question is equivocal to self publishing so it's too confusing because the author is really the publisher.
I read this book twice, because I needed to know, before review, what was really wrong. And it's a good thing that I did this, because I learned a lot. I loved portions of this book and even the core idea or theme and I think, despite some of the harsh words, there is enough there to satisfy many readers of science fiction. The main problem for me is the omniscient point of view. That POV in and of itself is not bad, but it does need to be done well to capture the reader and this one didn't do that for me. A problem with omniscient POV is that it lends itself easily to head hopping, which again in and of itself, is not necessarily bad--just difficult to write. Along with that there is both omniscient objective and subjective and it works best for me when author chooses one or the other; and I have this feeling that this work is a blend of both that telescopes in and out of many character's heads. In part the reason for this is that there is a lot of story to tell and a seeming hurry to tell it and not enough time to settle on any particular character. This leads to a feeling that the characters have little if any depth because we keep skimming across the surface while occasionally cutting deep--but the depth is often just for back story for characters and not near enough of that when it happens, especially not near enough for the characters that we need to know and understand.
What this leads to is a whole bunch of misunderstandings; the first being that Stevie Gordon is a Marty Stu. Really: when we examine him he is quite flawed and from a readers standpoint not so lovable. And that begs the question of how these other characters could possible be drawn in toward him. The answers lie somewhere, but not necessarily in the story. What really is Stevie Gordon? Well on the second reading I realize he's very complex. He's that ultra-smart kid who seems to have no common sense; however he also is the one that has ultra smart parents who seem to be well to do, so he's that smart rich kid without common sense. So he does what any one of those types would do and defies authority and steals his friends motorbike and crashes it into a big rig truck and is smashed to the point that his bones and organs are jelly. He survives and miraculously recovers to be a slightly damaged person who functions beyond what anyone could ask under those circumstances. He is no longer the wiz kid he was, but by all rights he should be dead or in a vegetative state. And then more miracles happen and he's restored. Then he turns into an arrogant genius who seems to-for no good reason-despise american politicians and in general the american social political structure. I will grant that he might be bitter because he's been detained because he touched the alien ship and he's in quarantine longer than necessary and we are led to believe it is primarily because of the president of the United States. But when they let him out so he can approach the ship and he is eventually healed of all his injuries and more; he comes out with quite a bit of attitude.
In context this is after Mr. Sales has shot his mother and stranded the second ship with a group of his people and Mrs. Gordon somewhere near Saturn. Stevie is rightfully concerned about this but when confronted with the insistent representatives of the president asking for the alien ship to be returned, his response is thus::
‘You may believe America to be the be all and end all, of civilisation Colonel, but my parents certainly don’t.
Murison, J W (2014-01-24). Teardrops In The Night Sky (Steven Gordon Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 1706-1707). Grosvenor House. Kindle Edition.
He then goes on some tangent about his traffic accident-for which he was responsible and how the US health care system left his family's funds depleted because they don't have National Health such as exists in Scotland.
That would be a worthy argument if it wasn't for the proviso that the National Health has the authority, in traffic accidents, to recover funds from insurers(no idea what they do with uninsured), from which the circumstance of his injuries might invalidate his argument. But beyond that, this seems to be the basis for his reason to be bitter toward American authority and it just is not enough coming from the spoiled child that caused his own injury.
Then there is this bit right after when Howe tries to argue dominion over the alien ships.
Howe’s head came up, ‘you’re right, I saw what they did to them but these ships landed on American soil and now belong to the United States of America.’
‘Yes of course, God incarnate himself.
Murison, J W (2014-01-24). Teardrops In The Night Sky (Steven Gordon Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 1721-1724). Grosvenor House. Kindle Edition.
I'll admit the military are getting heavy handed at this point; but Stevie's response begins to reach over the top for very little if any good reason. I will grant again that his concern is for his mother's safety because he has yet to locate the other ship and save her; but his approach is one of taking an end-run around authorities without even trying to negotiate some agreement to help save his mother before portioning out property. The impression the reader is suppose to get is that he has to do it all himself and yet it seems as though he has taken upon himself that only he can do this and in fact eventually his superior attitude leads to the realization that his statement was ironic in that Stevie begins to act like God incarnate.
It might be asked, "Why do I say that?" And that's a fair question. It comes from when Stevie says that the ship has mandated that all countries are allowed access to them and to their technology but then he turns around and when presented with Jim Grey a potential candidate for the crew (and after finding out the man claims he can make atomic bombs) Stevie gives Jim a deadline for making one for him before Jim can join. (As it turns out they will need one or more in the future-that's a spoiler-but at this moment Stevie doesn't know that and he is clearly taking advantage of his authority and frankly it's rather troubling in the very least in the context.
This atomic bomb thing is important for another point later.
Now it can be argued that Mr. Sales who alleges that he works for the president and even the president have demonstrated that they are evil. I won't argue against that. But what we see of Mr. Sales is that he seems to have some grudge against the Gordons and we don't know why because as close as the POV gets to him we don't get that answer. The president himself orders that Stevie be killed, but this is after Stevie makes his inflamatory remarks about the US authority and the president. And my point of contention is not that the president is made to look evil--I see a lot of that in fiction--the point is that there is never a clear motive for it. So we're left to believe that Mr. Sales and the President are both raving lunatics that have gone off the rails and the Gordons have just gotten in their way. And we're expected to understand that that is justification for Stevie's sour attitude about the US in general.
I'm going to skip over the troubling fact that there are a number of times when Stevie runs up against criticism from potential candidates who always too quickly roll over and suddenly see the wisdom of his choices. And somehow suspiciously everyone that is infused with the Nano technology from his ship are suddenly utterly loyal.
What I want to touch next is the character Lewis:: in the author's own words from his blog on goodreads.
Lewis is a specialist that served his in his countries armed forces, who has one of the highest IQ’s on the ship and can build a nuclear weapon from scratch; hardly stereotypical.
Where did he come from though? The idea for Lewis came from watching one of my favourite films the Green Mile. If you have ever seen Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey then an image of how I see Lewis should spring straight into your mind.
Sounds good right, well maybe the part about a literary character inspiring a character might be suspect, but the part about the mans intelligence sounds good. The trouble is that the only place in the book that supports that is where Babe (the ship) asserts that he's one of the most intelligent members of the crew. Asside from that, every word out of his mouth suggests otherwise. And this part about the making a nuclear weapon has me stumped, because in this book it was Jim Grey who did that and unless I missed something both times through, there is no place that even suggest that Lewis can do that. But asside from that I question the IQ of Jim Grey for letting himself be bullied into making that bomb in the first place.
I'm giving this book three stars because it does have some great ideas and it's chock full of character's and story, though that's what gets in the way because there is this constant feeling of rush with no clear focus on any characters; despite the feel that Stevie should be the main character. But even what I have shown here is taken out of context and represents at best how I came to have this love hate relationship with the novel and I certainly would expect future readers to come to their own conclusions. The concept of the character Stevie is great but it's shortchanged and overshadowed by a lack of focus. It would be great to have been closer to Stevie's point of view to understand him better because he's a great Übermensch that has a capacity for both great good or evil and is complex enough that he is unable to recognize or admit to his own blindness to his flaw, which is that he's becoming that which he professes to hate the most. Soon he'll think that he's the only one who can police the universe and that everything he does is for the better of mankind.
I've already read the second book and I do recommend reading this one with a few proviso regarding grammar and structure. And of course I'm obviously a bit confused.
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