My Review of ‘Rogue Genesis’ by Ceri London

4/5 stars

I was given a free copy by the author to review and also asked, due to my experience, to complete a final beta read. I agreed, then realized after the fact that this was the first time I’d ever officially reviewed a book after serving as a beta. It’s an uncomfortable position and not one I plan on repeating. However, as Ms. London is a very lovely person and very open to constructive criticism, I decided that I would go forward with this exception as I had agreed to it beforehand.

So, now that all the blah, blah disclosures are out of the way…

— Great cover: Very eye-catching and intriguing, makes you what to know more, and she allowed the GR community to participate by having a poll. Polls are a great way to get public feedback and gauge public responses. While one doesn’t have to accept the public’s vote, it is an excellent tool to use. So if you’re in doubt about how something will be received by your readers, have a poll. Ms. London is very savvy in regards to gaining public participation while not expressly using the public’s opinion. After all, everyone has an opinion and everyone wants to express it. A wise author learns how to use that to their advantage. :o)

Well played, madam. Well played indeed.

–Grammar/formatting: Overall very strong grammar and formatting. During my beta read, I found very few typos (her previous betas and she had done an excellent job, but the few I found I pointed out for her benefit prior to final publishing–We all hate the annoying buggers and the more eyes on a manuscript the better.)

Her Ebooks formatting and overall fiction formatting was excellent. Again, I found only a few errors, which were of the typo kind rather than lack of knowledge. Typos versus lack of knowledge are very different types of errors. We all make typos of one sort or another. A well-educated beta or reader can quickly spot the difference because a lack of knowledge creates an egregious amount of errors, usually the same type while typos are few, far between and of a sporadic nature.

That being said, Ms. London did have consistent problems with past present tense–had, had been. This is a very common problem, which I believe stems from the modern style of active verb/voice writing. Active voice is considered better than passive voice in fiction writing versus non-fiction (the elimination of was, had), but the problem I’ve been seeing is in the quest to remove all the passive voice verbs, many writers kill their past present tense verbs when they would’ve been not only appropriate but required to make the story clearer and cleaner if used judiciously.

I love active voice. It is an extremely vivid style; however, the idea of removing all of anything is usually a bad idea. Some words are there for a reason. Timeline for tenses:

X——————-X————-x—————–x
Past present tense past tense present tense future tense
(flashbacks) (story’s time)
(Unless they’re
written to be present tense
for a sense of urgency and emotion
and references to things done in the recent further
past prior to the story’s ‘current’ past tense)

–Story: Well plotted out, lots of research obviously went into this first book of a four book series. Overall I’d say the science was solid up until the point where it becomes speculative science. But then that’s the point of most science fiction. Speculative science is about taking what we currently know and can prove with evidence through the scientific method and ‘speculating’ with fiction and well thought out plots. Hell, TV Star Trek talks about tachyons all the time in ways that have little to do with what we currently know about tachyons. Yes, they’re real. Do we have a tachyon drive? Or tachyon field detector? Um, no. No one freaks out about that.

Given my medical, science and military background, I felt most of the science and military was accurately portrayed within reason. A certain amount of suspension of belief was required, but not so much that it was painful. Another reviewer mentioned how the numerous black holes were basically overkill, and while I would agree with this since one black hole would be more than enough to kill a solar system, it really didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. We’ll call it dramatic license. Maybe they were really small singularities. Individually, small ones would have less gravitational pull, but together their power would magnify. My only complaint about this is that Ms. London never goes into detail about the size of the black holes, their actual distances from Astereal and their positions to each other, only that their competing gravitational forces are distorting the space/time fabric and destroying Astereal. Which would both happen easily. Too much gravity is a bitch!

As for the time dilation of the wormholes and general relativity … well … yeah. That’s where some of the story gets a bit shaky and actually difficult to understand, especially during the first half of the story.

Ms. London deliberately kept time differences between Astereal and Earth somewhat vague in order to allow for literary freedom. However, general relativity basically states that every time Niall travels to Astereal more time should pass on Earth rather than on Astereal, therefore by the time he returns to Earth, potentially decades or centuries will have passed instead of seconds or minutes. Only Ms. London wrote it the opposite way. Hmm… More time passes on Astereal rather than on Earth while he’s away.

So here’s the rub and the gray area of Ms. London’s concept as I understand it. Correct me if I’m wrong, Ceri! Throughout the majority of the story, Niall only travels to Astereal through his mind by astral projection not by wormhole. If astral projection can exist, would the consciousness be limited-or not limited-by space/time? Could he conceivably travel to another galaxy within seconds/minutes by astral projection without using a wormhole? If so, then this may eliminate the question of general relativity since his body remains on Earth and therefore ruled by Earth’s space/time while his consciousness travels the cosmos. And since consciousness doesn’t age physically, so I will assume since consciousness is non-corporeal, then any problems of aging is a non-issue at this point.

An interesting concept. My only real complaint was that it wasn’t clearly explained or described for the first half of the story. But this was during my beta read. She has since added some narration to clarify this since it’s such a complex concept and should have more explanation early on rather than later.

There were a couple of twists/mystery reveals to the story. The mystery to the plot I’d actually guessed early on given the title of the story. If you’re paying attention, that’s a huge tell. I like that sort of thing and I do the same thing in my work. There was another twist that was nice, which I’d also guessed but not because of the reveals given. In fact, IMO, I think the reveals should’ve been given sooner in some instances to create more suspense for the overall plot, but that’s just me. We all have are preferences.

–Characters: Ms. London has a very good ability to create original, interesting characters with real life problems, concerns, weaknesses and strengths. I fully believed in the characters, specifically Niall since he was the main character and the main POV. The progression, growth and arcs of the characters were also believable given their respective circumstances. Even Niall’s best friend’s gradual transition was delightfully gray and his denial was just plausible enough. Though it did begin to push the boundaries. I mean, really? He doesn’t see his own culpability? But many people live their entire lives in deep denial, so it works for the story.

The downside of Ms. London’s characterization was though I fully believed in them and never fully connected to any of them. Even Niall, who narrates a good 80% or more of the story. And it’s not because Niall is military and stoic. I’m former military. As a medic, I’m stoic. Believe me, external stoicism nearly always has deep emotions brewing beneath. As they say, “Still waters run deep.” No… it was something else. I found myself having very little to no emotional responses during the most emotional scenes. The very scenes in which I’m suppose to be anxious or upset or happy or relieved and I’m feeling sort of… meh.

So why? For me at least, I’d say:

This is purely a plot-driven story. This is not a bad thing, but it is difficult (though not impossible) to write plot-driven stories that have emotionally strong characterization. To do so you have to get really deep into a character’s psyche. You have to not just tell what they’re doing, not just show what they’re doing, but you have to use their actions and reactions to the plot to illustrate–at a very deep emotional level–who they are, why they do the things they do. And then every action and reaction has to ring true for that character. Their physical actions have to mirror their internal narration like when metaphors are used.

For example: There’s a scene when Niall learns a deep truth about himself from his family, who is estranged. Here is a man who values family deeply, yet we’ve only been told about his estrangement from his parents before now. We’ve not seen any interaction through story narration or flashbacks. There’s no emotional connection to Niall’s pain. We just know that he has pain.

Then the reveal, he’s rightfully angry, but within a short span of time, he not only forgives but reconnects with his family. It felt… fake. Forced. He yells and stomps then dissipates his anger. Just like that. Really? After years of grudge-holding and estrangement, he doesn’t go outside and scream or kick the dog or show any other real physical frustration? A military man, trained to kill. Really?

And for that matter, why bother with the estrangement in the first place? If we’re not going to see it or feel any attachment to it, then why bother? The potential for a raging sense of double betrayal falls flat. It goes no where. He forgives as if he still had a solid, loving relationship with his family. But that’s not what we’re told he has.

So the story narration doesn’t reflect character past/personality that we’re given. So who is Niall? Is he estranged or isn’t he? If he forgives so easily now, then why all the grudge-holding before?

And much of this scene was unnecessary other than character backstory and I suspect a thread for future books. But given how it muddles Niall’s character, thereby making it difficult for the reader to really connect and attach to Niall, this scene and others like it could’ve been streamlined and written with a clearer vision of who Niall is and how the plot is wanting to mold him.

Like I said, plot-driven stories can be difficult to add strong characterization, but it can be done. One just has to understand that while the plot runs the show, it must also serve to strengthen the characters, their motivations and emotions AT ALL TIMES because they are responding to it. The plot is there not just to tell a story but to reveal who these people are, what makes them tick and why they’re changing. There should be no wasted scenes, no added fluff. If it’s not necessary to the plot or characterization, don’t write it. There were many scenes which could’ve been streamline and strengthened with the goal of characterization while staying true to the plot.

Remember…

Kill your darlings!

Pacing: Generally, this story has solid pacing. Starts off with a strong scene/hook, sucks you in and keeps you interested even through the slower sections. There’s a lot going on. Characters at odds with one another, questionable motives, visiting the alien world, so curiosity alone will keep most people reading. This is a very good thing!!! Ms. London has the ability to tell a good story.

Of course, initially many of her scenes suffered from a lack of clear description and abrupt transitions. Oh, it’s always good to avoid too many adjectives and over writing, but when one has to reread to often throughout book because one isn’t sure how a character got from A to Z or which character Niall is speaking to or just what the heck is going on because we’re doing what now? That’s when you need a bit more Niall did this then did that… sort of thing. Or more physical description of a scene, just enough to set a tone or a visual. Don’t spoon feed us, but when I have no idea when Niall got from knocking out one character to suddenly hijacking the helicopter from its two pilots… wait when did he get to the helicopter?

That being said, after beta work, Ms. London nicely fixed many of the problems I’d spotted. Transitions are smoother, scenes are clearer and more realistic. The helicopter scene being one example. This improved scene is significantly better. Clearer transitions and more realistic actions between three military men in a hijack situation.

SOOOO…!

My initial beta read of Rogue Genesis (which is a sneaky cool name btw as you’ll figure out as you read) I scored it a 3. A fun, interesting read, long enough that it took me two days (one which was a work day otherwise it would’ve be one day for me–I read really fast, even with beta work). However, with the improvements and my disclosure of my relationship to Ms. London, I feel confident giving Rogue Genesis a solid 4 stars.

I can’t say it blew my mind, but I really enjoyed it. There were no major plot holes, the writing is solid, the story is fun and interesting and I think most people will really like Major Niall, whether or not they closely connect with him or the other characters. He is a genuinely likable character and straight-forward (almost too much). I would think a combat-decorated major in the Air Force would be a bit more cynical and hard-edged. In my experience, field officers at his level would expect to be betrayed by those outside his very small inner circle. But again, I’m seeing this from my personal experience of the military and field EMS. Cynicism and distrust is an everyday thing when dealing with strangers and any potential threat.

Would I recommend it? Yes!

Will I read the sequels? Yes, while I didn’t connect emotionally to the characters, I am curious to see where else this plot goes. Ms. London has started an interesting world and has an easy reading style.

Should be great fun!

Rogue Genesis (Shimmer in the Dark, #1)


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