Monday, March 21, 2011

Alpha Redemption

I admit it - I'm really a fantasy junkie. Not truly hardcore, but enough to qualify as pleasant escapism. Since I began reviewing books a few years ago, I'm asked what I really like to read. I'll go for the sci fi/fantasy new books shelf first in the library. Then I check out the latest thrillers, and I have read exceptionally gory ones, but have lately come to adore Steven James. Still like Ludlum, though. Learning to like Irene Hannon. Since joining a couple book clubs I've been forced out of my element to reading some non-fiction. Still "eh" for me; I like escapism, I repeat.

I received a copy in a contest from the publisher of Alpha Redemption by PA Baines through Splashdown Books, an down-under publisher with Grace Bridges. It's also the selection of the month for the ACFW book club going on right now - hop on over to join the fun. I saw the first question come through the loop yesterday and thought I'd read a couple chapters to keep up. Yeah, three hours later, and change, the story was over. I love moments like that.

Part Best of Robert Heinlein, maybe a smattering of Clarke, with the good old days of Ray Bradbury--I love stories like this. Take a regular guy with nothing to lose, experiment on him and see what happens. Stick in an AI with the capabilities of expanding beyong its original parameters, and let it choose what to be, and let them hash it out.

We were talking about the importance of setting at a writer's workshop last Saturday, and someone mentioned what if the book was set in one house? Another person mentioned reading a book set entirely in a stuck elevator car. Alpha Remption is stuck in a space ship. Author Baines uses incredibly sophisticated stroy-telling technique of telling present time backward through the eyes of Brett, our astro-not hero, interwoven with the real time forward on a several-year journey to Alpha Centauri. The ship, Comet, is run completely on automatic by AI. Brett spends time in a liquid-goo tub for protective periods of faster-than-light speed, and a month's down time to recover. During these month-long intervals, Brett begins to encourage the AI to develop a personality. It's not as silly as one might think, as Brett's back story is crucial.

I kept coming up with "Oh, I know what'll happen" several times while reading. I did not choose to skip to the end this time (Bad habit, but it's Mine), and was thoroughly pleased with the author's conclusion. I look forward to the book club discussion!

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