Friday, November 16, 2007

REVIEW: 'Evolution’s Child' by Charles Lee Lesher

TITLE: Evolution’s Child
AUTHOR: Charles Lee Lesher
PRICE: $12.21 (Amazon) $11.95 (direct)
GENRE: Science Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-9777235-0-8
PUBLISHER: Writers Cramp Publishers
AVAILABLE FROM: Amazon, Author's Website

Charles Lee Lesher’s new book Evolution’s Child recently crossed my desk. It’s an interesting book, although I’m not sure I can fully endorse it.

The book is set in the year 2092. Earth, thanks to global warming, is a mess, and its thirteen billion inhabitants are struggling to survive. Orbital solar power and room temperature superconductors, both provided from Earth’s moon, are the critical factors for this survival. Lazarus Sheffield, an analyst in the North American Federation’s Department of Homeland Security, decides to defect from the Christian fundamentalist hell that is the NAF, and runs to the Moon.

When Lazarus gets to the Moon, in part thanks to a very fortuitous offer of assistance by a total stranger, he discovers that the Republic of Luna is your basic libertarian utopia. This utopia is irrationally hated by most of the rest of humanity, while having voluntarily allowing itself to remain mostly unarmed. Essentially all heavy weapons, for example, are denied to Luna. Since the Islamic Brotherhood is planning a major attack, and the rest of humanity seems unlikely to assist, this is a big problem.

Lesher’s book is very exciting, and the world he creates is interesting, even if you wouldn’t want to visit it. Having said that, there are problems with the book which lead me to give it less then a ringing endorsement. First, I find Lesher’s writing style rather verbose. Second, there is a lot of “stuff” in the book that either doesn’t need to be in the book at all or should be in an appendix. Third, I’m not sure that I entirely agree with his character motivations or the point of view used to tell the story.

Let’s start with the verboseness. A good example early on is when Lazarus, on the run in the Athens, Greece airport, steps into a men’s room to change clothes, thus throwing off surveillance. Lesher spends a page on describing the change-over, where a paragraph will do. Further on, we get another two pages on the operation of a zero-gee bathroom, again something that could have been glossed over.

The extraneous stuff complaint starts at the start of the book. The first chapter, Genesis, is an eight-page story of early cavemen. Besides looking like a rip-off of Arthur C. Clarke, it really doesn’t tie into anything else. At one point farther into the book, the entire narrative stops for a five page technical document providing the history of one of the critical pieces of technology used in the story. It’s something that the author needs to know, and if it was put in an appendix at the end it might be interesting, but I felt the placement of this document just stopped the flow of the story.

Lesher has written the book with an omniscient point of view. We see inside everybody’s head, all the time. I find that confusing, since it is frequently difficult to see who is thinking what at any given point. But more importantly, I’m not sure I agree with what I’m thinking. For example, Lazarus gets tossed in with a very close-knit group of specialists. They don’t seem to have any of the normal suspicions of Lazarus, for example.

I also think that Lesher has wasted an opportunity here. As it becomes clear that Luna faces a crisis, several people attempt to deny or rationalize the problem. This is a normal response, but _we don’t get to go into their heads and see why!_ Because of that, the deniers look like cardboard cutouts instead of real people.

The book’s copyediting is good overall, but there are some stylistic quirks. For example, Lesher will capitalize names of trees in mid-sentence. I should also point out that there are several gunfights in the later stages of this book, described with great amounts of gore. It didn’t bother me, but some more sensitive readers may be upset by that.

“Evolution’s Child” is book one of a series, and the ending is a cliffhanger. Frankly, I was disappointed in that, especially since there are probably fifty or a hundred pages of fluff that could have been removed, allowing a more substantial ending. It’s an exciting cliff to hang from, and the story, especially in the last eighty or so pages, really picks up, but I found that getting there was a bit of a slugfest.

RATING: 5/10

Chris Gerrib is a resident of Villa Park, IL and Director of Technology for a Chicago-area bank. Chris is the author of the science fiction novel The Mars Run. He holds degrees from the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University and is president-elect of the Rotary Club of Darien, IL.

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